Life can change in an instant – a birth, a death, an accident, a chance meeting with someone, exposure to an idea, an acceptance, a denial, etc. No amount of planning can ever fully prepare you for what lies ahead or predict an outcome. Life is full of twists and turns and as a result so is success. This does not mean that one should sit back and just let life happen and hope for success. Rather it is important that people be receptive to the detours that may present themselves. So if you are a high school senior that has recently accepted an offer of admission or decided on your next step, or a high schooler graduating in the future, here are some tips to help you be prepared for the windy path to your dreams.
- It is important to have goals. Sure these goals may change gradually over time or perhaps even every other day, but setting goals is an important skill that you must have in life. Goals give you something to aspire to and give you direction when you at times feel aimless. Goals help you to take that next step. If you are entering college next year and feel a little lost about what you want to study, spend some time this summer exploring different subjects and careers. You may not find your dream career, but you can see how the real world operates and learn what paths other people took. If you will still be in high school next year, the advice is actually the same. Summer time is a great time to explore. This will help you make some decision about things you want to do in high school and also give you some direction for when you apply to college.
- Get a mentor or two. Other than your parents, teachers, and close family members, it is a great idea to have a mentor or two that you respect and feel comfortable talking to. If you have a given career in mind, try to find a mentor in that field – someone who can help guide you. These mentors can not only serve as a great sounding board, they can also potentially connect you to other people and opportunities. They can also share with you their experiences, their learnings, their successes, and their failures.
- Don’t get stuck. Too often students get stuck on a path and then feel overcommitted. One of my students several years ago swore her commitment to medicine for a solid three years of high school. During her first semester of college, she changed her mind and wanted to study math and then eventually finance. It was because of her receptiveness to new fields that she was able to make the switch over more easily. Another student did not want to deter from his original goal of becoming a computer scientist. Unfortunately, he realized early in college that computer science was not for him. But he did not want to disappoint his parents and truly could not imagine any other career as suitable. He stuck it out with computer science and graduated with a 1.5 GPA. He also struggled for two years to find a job. He eventually switched over to a different field that suited his interests and skills better. Had he made the switch earlier he might have had a more successful and happy college career as well as an easier time finding a job.
- Allow yourself to get caught up in new experiences. Throughout your life, you will see so many new things, hear new ideas, meet new people. Immerse yourself in these moments because they may lead you to dreams you did not know were possible.
The crazy, twisty, unpredictable journey that is life should be unique for every person. Don’t follow someone else’s path. Create your own. Don’t worry if it does not seem to follow the common trail.