Posted by Ellen Bremen on Oct 16, 2012 in General, General College Success/Responses to Other College Entities, Interpersonal Communication | 21 comments
(I’m covering a number of write-in questions, so stay tuned! I bet many of us can relate to this one! Can we provide some support to this student who feels uncertainty and family pressure? Let’s take a look…)
“I’m in high school and I don’t have long until I graduate. I am very unsure of what to do when I get out. I planned to go to community college and then attend a university. My family doesn’t agree with that decision (to attend a community college). In my family, the elders decide what career path provides a good income. Now I am confused. I feel like I’ve drifted along with what I have to do but I’ve never thought of what I want to do.
This is a big choice to make, especially if I want to get through in life. If I follow what someone else wants me to do, I will know that I’m doing it just so someone won’t disown me.”
First of all, I’m sorry that you are feeling the way that you are, but know that you are not alone. Many, many people at your stage of life are simply unsure of the route to take. Let me tell you another secret: A bunch of students who say they know exactly what they want only believe they know. I’ve had students get into their programs and suddenly think, “This is totally not for me!” Please don’t beat yourself up for not knowing what you want to do right now because many are feeling just like you!
Here’s what I can offer in my advice: First, some options as I see them, and what I can recommend that you have in conversation(s).
The first thing that I’d like to see you have is a trusted someone on your side, whether that be a guidance counselor or teacher, who can help you untangle some of your decisions on the academic level. I would tell the counselor and/or teacher (or, hey, if you can get two people in your corner, all the better!) the same thing you told me: “I am graduating soon. I feel lost and confused. This is what I planned to do (lay out all the details) and my family disagrees with my decision. I am not sure about any of it at this point and I need some help to figure everything out.” You can also add, “Once I figure out the facts, I need someone who can support me while I present those facts to my family.”
So now, let’s break down your options:
-I couldn’t tell definitively (note to readers: we exchanged a few e-mails) if you’re also struggling with taking a break from school. Certainly, more than your family’s emotional support, you’ll have to consider the financial ramifications of that decision. One of the nice things about community college is that the structure would allow you to try college out and see how it feels, and even possibly do a combination of part-time school and work.
If you take a full break from school, make sure that you a) do something that enriches you in some way; and b) keep connected to the academic calendar in case you want to return. This post about taking a break will help.
Realize that the longer you stay out of school, the harder it can be to go back. I blogged here about my father dying… and unexpectedly taking six years to return to college.
-Now let’s talk about your family’s disagreement about your choice of school in tandem with your confusion over picking a career/major. Your inclination about going to a community college is a wise move. I think your family may not realize the benefits in waiting to pick a university if you’re just not sure about a major.
If you are a strong student, you could go into a community college honors program and/or score thousands of dollars in scholarships to make your next opportunities that much greater (Check out Isa Adney‘s story. She’s the author of Community College Success and winner of the $110,000 Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship). If you are struggling, which doesn’t sound like the case, you can a leg up on any help you need.
I’m hearing that you need more time to figure out what career path might fit you. Taking core classes at a much cheaper price would buy you that time. There is no reason that you could not visit your local community college now and talk with an educational planning adviser, the honors coordinator, and the financial aid office (to ask about scholarship possibilities) about potential opportunities. You could even say to anyone you encounter, “My family does not support my attending this school. What information can you provide that may help change their minds?” Gather everything to support that community college isn’t the “lesser” choice your family perceives. They may change their tune, but if not, you may feel more rooted in your path.
-Lastly, it wouldn’t hurt to explore your family’s recommendations to see if their ideas could fit you. Visit a university or two and see what possibilities may feel comfortable. You can ask an adviser or admissions rep, “What happens if I cannot declare a major right away?” or “What support services do you have for students who are unsure of their potential career path?” Universities have lots of support for students, too. You could start with core classes, just like at the community college–the cost will just be higher (which could work in your favor, once your family sees the price difference).
While you have a jumble of feelings right now, some open communication with your family is important for the future of your relationship with them. Although the conversation may be emotionally charged based on their expectations of you, hopefully it will ultimately lead to greater understanding and eventual support.
You can say: “I am really struggling with my decisions of what to do after high school. I know you have set ideas of what you want me to do. I’m feeling very anxious because I have to be able to live with those decisions and feel comfortable about them for a long time. I know you want what is best for me and I love you for that. I want what is best for me, too, and I have to figure out what that is. I am willing to explore the options that you think are right. Would you be willing to look at some of the options that I am thinking about, too, so we can consider all the possibilities and make a decision that we all feel good about?”
Let’s be real… your family may say, “No, we already told you what you’re going to do.”
In that case, go to your “trusted others” and keep them on your side. And keep doing your research on your plan.
You can tell your family that you’re willing to explore their options, but you’re going to move forward and investigate your own, too.
Fortunately, your high school graduation is not next week. You have time to figure this out and find as much peace as you can with your decision.
I look forward to hearing about the path you choose to take.
Mid-terms are underway, or maybe it’s time to figure out your grades. Have you talked to your professors yet? This is the time to self-advocate and Say This, NOT That to Your Professor is the tool to help! Have you taken a look inside?