“Help! I Don’t Know What I Want To Do As A Career!!”

by Carol Chandler-Wood

Dear Mrs. Wood,

I am a high school Senior and am really stressed out trying to figure out what I want to do as a career.  All of my friends know where they want to go to college and what they want to do when they “grow up”, and I have no clue.  What should I do? HELP!


Dear J.G.,

The stress and confusion you are feeling right now is not unusual for someone your age.  Your friends who seem to know exactly what they want to do with “the rest of their lives” will most likely change their minds several times along the way.  In fact, a comforting statistic I can share with you is that the typical college graduate will change jobs an average of three times within the first ten years out of college.  In fact, I did that myself!  It is also important to know that every academic and professional work experience you have will be beneficial.  You will carry each of those experiences into the next job you undertake.  For example, I have combined all three of my professional work experiences and own and operate an educational business today.   Each job I held taught me important lessons, and I use what I learned from each daily.

Following is what I would suggest you do to get started in your career quest:

  1. Think about several career areas that interest you or areas you feel you excel.  Then look each career area up in “Index of Majors”, a book published by College Board.  This text lists the colleges that are noted as being the best in particular degree areas.  After looking up several degree areas which interest you, compare the lists of colleges for each degree and see which colleges are on all of the lists.  Whichever colleges are on all the lists are ideal colleges for you to consider because you could change majors without having to change colleges.
  2. Next, look up the colleges which are on all of the lists in another book, “The College Handbook”, also published by College Board.  The book will give you information about college costs, the average SAT and ACT scores of entering freshman and their average GPA.  You can now narrow your college choice further based on these factors. 
  3. If your college entrance exam scores and/or your GPA are not high enough for your favorite colleges and there is time before application deadlines, work to improve your scores and grades by preparing on your own or hiring a professional.
  4. Now that you have created a list of potential colleges, contact each and arrange for an official visit so you can meet with an admissions officer and learn, in person, more about each college.  Be sure that one or both of your parents attend each official visit with you.  If you have siblings, ask your parents to arrange for someone to stay with them at home so that the focus of each visit can be just on you and this important decision regarding your career path.  At the end of each official visit, tour the campus on your own when classes are underway so that you can get a realistic “feel” for the students and the campus environment.   
  5. Now it is time to determine the colleges you desire to apply to and begin completing the necessary paperwork.  I would suggest you apply to at least three colleges; a “sure shot, long shot and one in the middle”. Be sure to be mindful of application deadlines and mail each into the admissions departments.                            
  6. Once you begin college, if you are still confused as to what major to declare, register to first take core classes which are required for most majors.  You also could select a major which is considered to be more broad based and encompassing such as Business Management.  By doing this, upon college graduation, if you change your mind about your career path, at least you are educated in a field that is applicable to many professions and in demand by many companies.
  7. Most importantly, remember that each area of academics you study and each job position you hold, will teach you valuable lessons to take and use in the next career.  Best wishes during this exciting time in your life!  What an adventure and time of self discovery you are about to begin!

Mrs. W

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