Why Making Decisions is Hard for High School Seniors

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest post by Kimberly Russell

Today high school seniors have so many choices regarding their future that it requires more thought than ever to decide what they want to do after graduation. There are a few variables that have made choosing if, where, and when to go to college a much more difficult decision.

Following in their parents’ footsteps. Often teenagers are faced with an enormous amount of pressure to follow in the footsteps of their parents. Those that come from a legacy family have, since birth, been living under the assumption that they will naturally choose the same Ivy League university that their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents chose. The more that these alumni push their children toward their school of choice, the more they may see them running in the opposite direction. The pressure of choosing a school outside of the family legacy doubles when a sibling chooses to go to a parental alma mater. Going against the grain and selecting a school that is not approved of can leave the other sibling feeling disconnected or even ostracized by the rest of the family.

Adventure seekers. Taking a year off to travel was unheard of 30 or 40 years ago. The number of opportunities for young adults to travel has increased thanks to more overseas and remote opportunities and less expensive travel options. A recent Verge Magazine article stated that you don’t need thousands of dollars to get yourself on the road. In fact, all you need is a little originality, some guts and enthusiasm, and some ideas to get you started. Additionally, the availability of online classes and more stable Internet services around the world make it easier for college students to continue their studies from anywhere in the world.

The desire to be better. Students that come from diverse backgrounds, through adversity, and dream of success want to go to college. They want a better life, a better career and a better future than what life has shown them so far. These students are the ones that work hard because nothing has ever been handed to them or been made easy for them and that’s all they know how to do. The driving force for these young adults is the belief that without a degree or a purpose, things will remain challenging and success may never be achieved.

Money matters. Paying for college or rather who should pay for college is the subject of heated debates among politicians, educators and parents. The right to an education is considered to be a basic right for all Americans. Loans, work-study programs, private and public grants and scholarships, in addition to parental contributions are all financial aids that help cover the cost of college. However, the idea of college debt is daunting considering that beginning wages hardly cover living expenses for most graduates. President Obama’s stance on affordable education is well known and represented through his actions. As president he has increased Pell Grant awards, created new tax credits to help parents pay for education, reformed student loan programs, and taken steps to combat rising costs and improve value of college education. It will be up to our next president to continue his work and make postsecondary education accessible for all.

Who needs college anyway? Success stories are wonderful and inspiring especially when they come from those that grew up in a less privileged environment. However, when the success stories are from those that didn’t go to college yet became successful, college students may be inspired to throw their education to the wind and just jump into their career. Whether a college education really matters has become such a hot topic that even Time magazine recently published a Pew Research Center study that gave statistics related to the subject. One of the most convincing numbers in favor of college education was that 86 percent of graduates thought that college was a good investment. People who argue that college is not worth it contend that the debt from college loans is too high and delays graduates from saving for retirement, buying a house or getting married. They say many successful people never graduated from college and that many jobs, especially trade jobs, do not require college degrees according to ProCon.org.

There are still other but less profound categories of the ‘undecided life choices’ of a high school senior. Luckily, there are so many resources available that making decisions doesn’t have to be a lonely, tiresome or stressful process. Using friends and family to get opinions and information, asking questions and reading about experiences of others online, and avoiding pressure from self or family are all great decision making aids. Lastly, all future life decisions don’t have to be during the last year of high school. Some people may not discover what they really want to do in life until they reach their 40s. In the meantime, our life goals are constantly changing.

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Kimberly Russell has spent nearly 15 years in the field of education. She has served as an international educator and administrator in underdeveloped areas throughout the world. The desire to promote quality education and make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children is what drove her to teach overseas. Kimberly now spends her time as an Education Consultant between Louisiana and Cairo, Egypt while homeschooling her 3 children. She can be contacted via email at [email protected], and can be followed on Twitter @startrighted.

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