Graduation Is Just Around the Corner, Now What?

Here it is, your high school years are coming to an end. Everyone keeps asking you or your
parents, "What does she/he plan to do after high school?"or "Hey nephew, how are your grades? What are you planning to do when you graduate?" Everyone is biting their lips and scooting around every week, avoiding the elephant in the room. You are driving, going to job interviews, taking responsibilities, and yet you wish you could go back to being a kid. You were so excited for high school to come, now you just want to go back to the middle school days and going home after school to drop off your backpack and run to the park.

Where did the time go? Why do I have to grow up? I'm sure that inside every high schooler, there is still a young boy or little girl who wishes life was a little easier, less complicated, and more about what they have to do next weekend, not what they have planned for their survival. Why is graduation the particular year where I have to venture out of my comfort nest? This may or may not be your reality. You might be the small percentage who knows what they want to do and are ready to keep it moving onto the next phase of your life. If you are that one, to you, I bid you a sincere, congratulations. For the rest of the young souls breaking out into their so-called "freedom" you may have much work ahead of you, that you may or may not have prepared. For now, I'll give you some ideas, soul searching you may call it. Spend time looking into something that will jog your mind and possibly give you a jump start to this big evil word in your life as an adult.

"In the past 20 years, more than 31 million students have enrolled in college, only to leave without a degree or certificate, according to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). And a third of these students dropped out of school before the start of their sophomore year." (Williams) Statistics for new college students have alarming facts; 30% of Freshman at a four year university drop out the first year. 70% of Americans attend college, but only ⅔ will graduate with a degree. ( Tuition for attending college has increased, and graduation rates have dropped. The most significant factor for student drop out stems from a lack of ability to study appropriately and to learn in an independent, self-motivated setting. Students who are not reading and writing at the college level are entering into college taking remedial classes, and this puts them automatically at a disadvantage as "75% of students who start college in remedial courses do not go on to graduate. " ( Knowing these statistics, we need to make sure we are preparing students for the colossal decision to attend college. The last thing a student needs is accumulated debt without gaining a plan to prepare them for their future. Life is hard enough without having to add on the aspect of college debt.

College is essential, and "on average, a college dropout makes 35% less than a college graduate, and 2x more likely to be unemployed." ( The proof is clear that there is a high importance of college and or vocational education or, at a minimum, of going to trade school to learn a specific skill. What we do not want is for students to go into college blindly. Without a clear vision or plan. "In this modern age of parenting, many students have little experience managing their own lives," says Boykin. "They often leave high school with fewer real-world skills and, for some, less resiliency when it comes to the emotional and social challenges of adulthood" (Williams)

Students are applying for colleges and are not mentally ready for the demands of college classes, the importance of goal setting, following through, and being an independent learner in all aspects of life. They are leaving high school without the ability to handle the average stresses that will come at a young adult trying to survive in life, let alone with breath in a self-motivated world. "Nearly 80% of college students report frequent stress, and 1 in 3 experienced a depressive episode." (Williams) If a student is not capable of independent studying and has not experienced personal goal setting to the point of working towards them in a productive pursuit at a high standard, this will affect the successful students will have entering into a secondary education lifestyle.

Taking a year off to travel and work on your growth mindset might be an option before jumping into school and choosing a career you have no desire to do or maybe working the family business for a year. At the same time, you define what your talents and what skills are that you want to perfect. You may find, after some pure soul searching, you have abilities that you have kept dormant that you are ready to emerge into your future career. Taking time out can be a real benefit for teens fresh out of high school. Taking the time out to travel, or to do community service, to see the world, before stepping into the significant responsibilities of life.

It may seem like taking a year off would be a waste of time, but taking a year away doesn't put a teen at a disadvantage. There are organizations in both religious and community programs throughout the United States. Programs that will offer opportunities for young students to explore their world, before stepping into, college, trade school, military, or the workforce. It can be a reward for them to learn more about themselves. The important thing is that they have the support both mentally and financially to do the exploring they choose to do. Keep in mind students also need to be; humble, and also appreciating what they have currently in life while being honest about their options of exploration can be a real-life experience in itself. Keep in mind, use the time wisely. We do not want these, fresh out of high school teens, exploring more than a year. According to the research done by, "Students who start college before turning 20 have a 13-22% lower chance of dropping out than those who start college after turning 20." (

Students take the time to assess yourself using mind maps, dream boards and review your passions and hone in on your personality along with talents. Make a list of occupational choices, find jobs that could put you in the path of your future career choice. Be flexible and open to new ideas. Parents resist unsolicited advice, help your teen to make clear decisions and reassure them with support. Allow your child to make decisions and be an independent learner while making their life choices. "The students give up instead of learning how to push through the challenges ahead of them." (Williams)

Be positive during this period of planning and developing your action plan. Do not settle for mediocre, belief in yourself, and do not turn away from what seems impossible. If you take smaller steps that will build into more significant leaps and bounds, you will soon find yourself closer and closer to reaching your dream career. These smaller goals will help keep you focused and remind you of the more significant outcome you are setting your sights. Gina DeLapa, a licensed professional counselor, "Recommends connecting students to services on campus before they get into trouble academically. "For example, how many students go talk to their professors? How many use tutoring services or take a seminar on how to sharpen their study skills?" (Williams)

75% of students change their desire to continue their college plan during their 6th year of school. Adjusting classes and losing credits would not only a waste of money but a waste of time. You do not want to be halfway through school and make a change because you realized you rushed your initial decision on what you truly want to pursue study. If you decide you want to continue to take over the family business or you realize you have other desires to on increasing your skills and or talents that you have kept dormant. It is your choice. Remember, it is what makes you truly happy that makes a life. Look for what brings you joy in life and find a career that can match that. If you do not know what your talents are and or do not have any significant passions that you can go after, take the time to look deeper within yourself to find your true self.

Do your best and turn off negative thinking. When using mind maps and or dream boards, the teen should look into their passions, their talents, and take both personality tests and career assessments. Make a list of career options, look into new careers and connect with at least a few fields of interest, and research on each area, extensively. Consider jobs within the field of your dream career. Working in lower-level employment can help you find mentors and or experiences that will give you a better outlook into the career you ultimately want to pursue. No dream is too big. Once you have decided what you want to do, there is nothing that should stop you from achieving it, especially not yourself.

Parents, encourage your teen to look into their talents and passions and help them determine what impact they would like to make on the world. Students, what will be your legacy? Be aware that people do change as the years go on, and your ideas for what you want to do may change as well — considering that as a factor, remember your talents and what your passions genuinely are. Chasing a dream can be more fulfilling than chasing after just paper.


Bidwell, Allie, Most College Students Don't Graduate On Time, Dec. 1, 2014, at 1:21 p.m, photo
accessed; Dec. 20, 2019, US. (Fig. 1) U.S. College Dropout Rate and Dropout Statistics, Updated Jun 29th, 2018 by College Atlas

Williams, T. Freshman Students are the Most Likely to Drop Out, Accessed; Dec. 20, 2019,

Personality and Career Tests

Continuing after high school parent toolkit continuing-education-after-high-school-sorting-through-the-options

Self directed search

Tracy Washington
Tracy Washington
Tracy Washington has a Master degree in Educational Leadership from ASU and a teaching credential in; PE, English, ESL, and Dance from both Arizona and California. She has taught English, Dance, and reading intervention from grades 1st-12th grade.

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