We have recently begun meeting with juniors to discuss their hopes and dreams for college, and I’m finding that their hopes and dreams can change more often than their clothes. This is to be expected, but it’s interesting to see how they can be so sure of what they want to study, do for a career, or what type of college they want in one moment, and then do a complete 180 the next.
I recently had a milestone birthday and, in light of the ever-changing goals of the juniors I work with, I reflected on my own educational and professional journey. If you had asked high school senior me what a College Counselor does and if I thought I’d be interested in that job, I would have looked at you like you were from the moon. I graduated from a large public high school in the Midwest where we had Guidance Counselors. I thought I was savvy about the college application process, but I didn’t realize that the admission counselors I encountered at college fairs or during visits to my high school might be the same individuals who would read my applications and actually make admission decisions.
I wanted to be a teacher and work with kids my entire life. I volunteered in a kindergarten classroom, I tutored students, and I even taught tennis lessons to kids of all ages for 8 years. I majored in Elementary Education in college and pursued my other academic interests by double majoring in English and minoring in Music. By my junior year, I realized that I couldn’t envision myself as an elementary school teacher right out of college. I suddenly recognized that perhaps my priorities and interests had changed from the ideal career I had envisioned for myself since kindergarten. Even in grad school, I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I liked being on a college campus and I was involved in student affairs, so I thought hey, that could be fun! After interning in student affairs, development, and admissions, I landed my first real job as a brochure-carrying admission counselor.
Fast forward to five years later and I’ve found myself on the other side of a desk that I didn’t fully understand years ago. One thing I’ve realized from my own journey is that maybe I don’t have one passion. Maybe there are multiple jobs I would excel at; maybe I have lots of different strengths and skills. I remember being told: “Find your passion! Figure out what you’re good at and enjoy doing and pursue it!” But I never figured out what that one thing was. It’s because there isn’t always that one thing and, even if there is, that one thing can and does change.
I hope current high school students realize that they don’t have to have all the answers now, because how could they? How could they know who they’ll be four years from now as college students? How can they know what new jobs, careers, and fields will be created by the time they’re in the workforce?
I’d like to ask you to reflect on your own educational and professional journey. Did you think you’d be where you are now when you were 17 years old? What advice do you wish you had been given back then? Whether you knew from day one what you were meant to do or whether you tried on a variety of professional hats in your life, it’s a good reminder for us all that we don’t have to have everything figured out just yet. And this is especially true for the students we work with on a daily basis. Be kind. Be patient. But most importantly, be supportive.
By Meredith Britt