Monday, September 9, 2013

Planting Seeds

The other day my daughter was discussing with me what classes she will be taking this fall as she starts her sophomore year in high school. Certainly some of the courses like english, history, P.E., and mathematics are required, but the remainder of her schedule is filled in with various electives that she specifically chose. I didn't ask her at the time, but I have been wondering since if there was any specific reason that she made the selections that she did. Were they made based on subjects that she thought that she would enjoy, or with teachers that came recommended to her by friends, or because she was told they were easy and wouldn't take much effort? Is it possible that choices were made with some longer-term strategy in mind like thinking ahead to college or career?

I remember back in my high school we were assigned to meet with a guidance counselor a couple of times per year. When I was a freshman, sophomore, and junior, their advice seemed to be laid back, without any pressure or intensity. Then all of a sudden when we became seniors, their attitudes took a markedly serious turn? "You only have a few more months before graduation. How can you not have detailed plans for your future laid out in every detail?! You had better do some serious thinking about your future and do it quickly!" It seemed like up until the last minute their attitudes were all "don't worry, be happy" and then suddenly they were ranting and raving because the majority of folks really had done no planning at any level.

Anyway, all of this got me to wondering about when young people start to get a realistic sense of what they want to do when they "grow up". Do most high school graduates who go to college (a fraction typically in the 50-60% range) go with a reasonably mature plan for what they want to do for a career? Are they just going off to school because that is what is expected of them? Are they just trying to buy time? What about those high school graduates who don't go to college? I wonder how long it took them to reach some sort of career equilibrium? It would be interesting to compare what careers folks ended up in versus the plans that they had when they graduated from high school. What fraction of these young people ended up where they thought they would? It would be fascinating to know what specific seed was planted in their lives that eventually sprouted forth into the career path they ultimately chose.