Tuesday, May 13, 2014

undecided. navigating life and learning after high school by Genevieve Morgan

It's May, and that means the end of the school year is here or nearly here. Maybe you're in high school. Maybe, like so many kids in high school, you still don't know what you want to be when you grow up. This is normal, in case nobody else has told you so. And lots of folks who think they know change their minds. Then change them again when they hit 30 or 40 or 50. (Just saying.)

Guess what? This book can help. Its mission is to offer you options and support. The author, Genevieve Morgan, asserts in the introduction, "But you are not a robot on a track. You are an individual living in a free society and, by the age of eighteen, can make educational decisions for yourself."

I recommend that you challenge your own idea of who you are and open up to the possibilities the world has got offer. I want you to look forward to your future with a sense of optimism and adventure, not resignation and dread. Your future will be what you make of it. As you go through your options, keep in mind one important thing (and, honestly, this is the same thing that a lot of parents would probably agree mattered the most at this age): whatever direction you take, make a commitment to yourself to keep challenging yourself after high school. Choose a path that challenges your brain, increases your skills, and helps you gain real experience. Almost every occupation that has a high degree of personal satisfaction (and competitive pay) will require some level of continuing education and hands-on training. Where you get that education, when you get it, and how long it takes you--well, that's a different story. That's what this book will help you sort out.

The book is divided into five sections. The first part is all about self-assessment, and includes where you are now and what interests you might have, plus an important section taking money into account. The next four sections cover the four different life options or paths for life after high school:

(1) higher education, which explores four-year colleges and universities, two-year colleges, trade schools and the like, and distance learning (online college) or studying abroad;

(2) service, which covers military service as well as civil service (government workers like park rangers, FEMA employees, etc.) and foreign service (often volunteer work);

(3) work, with tips for finding internships and apprenticeships, starting your own business, and getting and holding a job; and

(4) "get busy living". This includes ideas like travel and gap years and such. "Getting a life means knowing yourself and putting yourself out there in the world as you are now, even if you have no idea where you will end up." Right before the subsection entitled "YOLO", it includes the suggestion that you might want to

Take some time before college and have an adventure. Experiment a little. Test yourself. The way to get a life is to get off the couch and start living, right now, in whatever mixed-up, wacky fashion you can finance or finagle: make juice out of a food truck, practice yoga, enroll in a painting class, work on a farm, study monkeys in Asia, babysit in Norway, write a blog, silkscreen T-shirts and sell them at outdoor festivals. It doesn't matter what it is--just try it. Or even better, try all of it!
There's a brief conclusion at the end of the book, along with a killer set of resources listed in the back.

With both of my own kids in college, I still enjoyed reading it, and how it set out helpful, useful information in an accessible, positive way. And it's never preachy, although always cheerful. And I am totally handing it off to a certain 16-year old I know who has absolutely no clue what to do in two years. "College" is the answer most often given, but with no idea what to study or what to aim for or how to proceed, this book can only help.

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