A major mistake many college students in the US make is that they go straight to college after high school. Indeed, much of 11th and 12th grade is just time spent preparing to go to college – SATs, admissions, courses and so on. By the time summer vacation’s over, it’s straight off to university and four years of commitment.
In my opinion, this is the wrong approach. It delays adulthood by sending kids who have not matured into yet another structured educational setting minus the authority – a high school without the parents. Many of these students are going into college straight off the educational conveyer belt without having stopped to think, train and understand why they are going to college and how to get the most out of it (if they should go at all).
In my opinion, it is better that many of them take between 2-3 years between high school and college. High school graduates would do better spending as much time as possible developing themselves (not ‘finding themselves’) and going out in the real world. Then, if and when they go into college, they will go as more mature young adults, far more prepared for the challenges ahead.
Here are my tips to budding high school graduates to do this as best as possible:
Get A Job(s)
It doesn’t matter what kind – internship, delivery person, desk jockey &c. Spend at least 3 months per job learning the ropes and getting to know the people around you. Learn as much as you can about your place of employment – how it operates, what are its prospects, what are the hopes of advancement in each type of business structure. Not only will you learn about actual skills you possess, but you will also learn more about real people and their problems than any sociology class.
Learn About Yourself
I don’t mean the kind of flaky ‘finding yourself’ that involves traveling to India or Southeast Asia. When I say ‘learn about yourself’, I mean far more concrete things like skills, aptitude and personality. Become aware of what you’re good at and what you’re not in social settings and in performing tasks. Spend time looking at different kinds of jobs and professions and see not only whether it ‘speaks to you’ but also if you have the skills, or can develop the skills to succeed in them.
Doing different jobs will also help in this – sales will test your social skills, desk jockeying your writing and organizational skills, being in charge of delivery will test your sense of direction and punctuality. Take an aptitude test that is geared toward examining a wide skill set, and take a Myers-Briggs test or be evaluated by a professional. Don’t accept the results as a Permanent Decree from Heaven but as a “snapshot” of where you are now, intellectually and emotionally.
Embrace all aspects of your life – improve the good and try and moderate or minimize the bad.
Participate in Home Finances
Unfortunately, most high school students are not given proper systematic instruction about taxes, household finances and bills in general. However, by taking 2-3 years, and presumably living at home, you now have a golden opportunity to fill that particular gap.
Offer to work with your parents in handling the finances and offer to pay a small portion – say somewhere between 5-10% – of your part of the medical insurance, electricity and phone bills. Even though it’s a small amount, this should help you feel more investment and interest in learning about budgets and bills. You won’t have to learn about everything all on your own after you leave the campus if you follow this advice.
NEXT: Tip #5: Learn to write well