Senior year brings a world of changes for high school students. All of a sudden there are a whirlwind of questions and a shortage of answers. What are you doing next year? Any plans for the future? Save a special few, the answer is usually something about which college you applied to or a quick story about not knowing exactly what your plans are. The asker’s response being some half-reassuring words about how you are so young and you don’t need to know what you want yet. Even though these words can be comforting, the stress of not knowing what you want still remains.
When these “future questions” maybe showed themselves once or twice junior year, all of the sudden they seem to come up in everyday conversation. Everyone wants to know. Older friends already in college, parents, friends of parents, grandparents, that guy at the grocery store. Just the other day I met a man while hiking to a waterfall who asked me what my plans for next year were, he even gave me the side-eye when I said I told him how late I applied.
Questions come from everywhere and everyone. Distant relatives can’t wait to see if you’ve decided what law firm you want to work at most or if you want to go pre-med or pre-vet. Throw in a business major and you’ve won grandchild of the year. I envy those who know, right now, what they want to do. I also might question their sanity (maybe they are the most sane of all), but for the most part there is only admiration and a little bit of jealousy. Maybe more than a little bit.
The stress of college applications is still there even after you apply because the folks who run the show wait until March or April to tell you if you’ve made it or not. By January most everyone who wants to go to college right away has applied and most schools have deadlines around the New Year anyway. Happy New Year, right? I hope that all college hopefuls reading this are done with that madness.
Frequently, I have been told that it is not essential to know what you want right now. I just wish I could really listen to that advice because it is so good. College may seem like the “right” thing to do, but what does that even mean? We are all so young and supposed to live way longer than our ancestors so why not take a little break. Try to get your head together and then go to school knowing what you want and hopefully having a plan to get out of the massive debt that seems to accompany so many college grads. Some of the most rewarding conversations I have ever had are from people who took an uncertain road toward what they were meant to do. Everyone’s story is different and that’s what makes them so great.
These questions, although frequent, are necessary. This experience, even though millions of students go through it every year, is still incredible and unique for every person and that is the reason we want to know so badly why and where and how and what everyone else is doing. We hope to gain insight, discover hope, and find solace in others. Proud grandparents, supportive friends, questioning parents. It is all a part of the process, so to everyone who has ever asked a question like those named previously, even though I may think “stop asking,” don’t stop asking. Thank you for your questions and thank you for your lessons.
Annie Howeth is a senior at Whitefish High School.