I'm a senior in high school with about a week left of school, and I have no idea what I'm going to do next year! My whole life, I'd planned on going to college, but when it came time to apply for colleges, I just... didn't. I guess I was in denial, because I don't feel ready to grow up yet, I miss being a care-free kid. Plus, I didn't know what to major in and my parents suggested I don't go to college for a few years (because it's so expensive and I didn't know what to do), and so I kept putting it off, and now it's too late!
Now I don't know what I'm going to do next year. It seems like everyone I know is going to college and has their whole post-high school life planned out and it's going to be awesome, except me! Now I'm afraid I'll be stuck working a minimum wage job the rest of my life that I hate, or being a bum living in my parents basement. Any advice? Should I apply for college next year even though I don't know what to major in? Or should I just get a job? Do you happen to have an aging machine I could borrow so I could go back to being a 9th grader, or better yet, a 5th grader?
GAAAAAAAAAH! Oh honey, no! Even if returning to your prepubescent youth were possible—which, thankfully, it’s not—there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that could make it worth it to put yourself through the unmitigated hell of middle school a second time. And if you suggest otherwise, I’m getting the Punishment Salmon, because THIS IS CRAZY TALK AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR IT.
And really, despite all your fears about becoming a basement-dwelling loser and lifetime McDonald’s employee, you’re not in such terrible shape. In fact, thus far, you’ve made pretty much the best possible choice you could under the circumstances. Because while it might be unpleasant to have to acknowledge that you’re kind of aimless, a tad immature, and utterly clueless as to what comes next, it’s a whole lot better than the alternative—as anyone who’s ever flunked or dropped out of a college they just weren’t ready to attend can tell you. (And props to your parents, too, for not forcing you into school because it’s just what’s supposed to come next.) College is an intellectual, personal, and professional preparation for your life as an adult, and as long as you haven’t a clue who you are, what you want, or where your strengths and interests lie, you won’t get out of it what you need to make the investment of time and money worthwhile.
The bad news is, I can’t tell you who you are or what you want. But you can! And you will—because in the year that you don’t go to college, you will instead attend the University of Who The Hell Am I and declare a major in What The Hell Do I Want To Do. You’re going to examine your high school history to figure out which subjects you liked and excelled in. You’re going to do volunteer work that exposes you to different types of people and professions. You’re going to look into vocational and technical courses of study and see whether they might be a better fit for you than a liberal-arts education. You’re going to talk to a college or career counselor who can help guide you toward a better understanding of yourself and your options. And, ideally, you’re going to get a job—at least part-time—so that you can experience for yourself that earning your own money, pursuing your own interests, and directing your own life is rewarding in ways that childhood can’t touch.
And then, six months from now, you’ll take a look at the knowledge, experience, and skills that you’ve gained, and see what stands out as worth pursuing—whether it’s a four-year school, an apprenticeship, another year of work, or something else entirely.
Meanwhile, here’s what you won’t do: use your delayed transition into the next stage of your life as an excuse to never transition at all. Because while you have a variety of options when it comes to next steps, there still needs to be a next step, of some sort, in the direction of independence. Otherwise, you really will end up as a burger-flipping, basement-dwelling Troll of Inertia who has nothing but emptiness, regret, and a sad scattering of Cheetos crumbs in the place where your dreams are supposed to be. Adulthood is inevitable; you might miss being a carefree kid, but you’re not one anymore, and whether or not you feel ready to grow up, you are, in fact, grown up.
But I promise, you’re going to like it here.
Did you take some time off between high school and college—or decide to skip college altogether? Tell us all about it! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related post: Auntie SparkNotes: Should I Follow My Dreams—Or My BF's?