The pressure to choose your future

Video by Alex Jordan, Israel Lechner and Sarah Conner

Isabelle Blasdel, Editor

The clicking of computer mouses is one of the things heard while small eighth-graders choose which tiny boxes will decide who they become in life.

Starting in eighth grade, students are required to plan the next four years of schooling and what and where they will go beyond that.

Planning for their future is one of the leading causes of stress for teenagers, students say. 

Sophomore Chloe Lambert stresses over many things about her future.

¨The most stressful thing would be deciding what and where I want to go for college and what job I would have while I´m there,¨ Lambert said.

The realization that decisions made now will affect your future stresses senior Zoie Ecord the most.

“The decisions I am making are going to make a huge impact on my future and what I will do with my life,” Ecord said.

A Pew Research study discovered that anxiety and depression are on the rise. According to the study, 96 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds said they experienced anxiety or depression, and 70 percent said anxiety and depression are a major problem.

And this survey was conducted in 2018, before the pandemic. 

The past few years have not been anyone’s normal and that is what Debes feels stresses students when thinking about the future.

“Students want to be able to count on a stable, secure future, but the past few years haven’t felt very stable or secure for anyone in this country, or in the world in general,” Debes said. “It takes a lot of bravery to plan for a normal future when we don’t even know what normal will look like a year from now.”

Students begin planning their future in middle school, taking a careers class and creating a study plan that plots out high school classes — and sometimes beyond — that align with their career interests at the time. 

Sophomore Reid Carr said he believes schools have students plan their futures too early.

“Putting all the weight and stress of college and careers on seventh and eighth graders gives students unnecessary stress,” Carr said.

“I feel that I know what I want to do for a career and that what I need to do for college will happen when it happens,” 

But Lyn Brown, Maize South college and career advocate, said planning early is necessary.

“You will take only the classes you need for your career path – no overlapping,” Brown said. 

And for some, planning ahead reduces stress. 

I don’t feel stressed about my career plans because I’ve been planning for years and gone through everything so that I can get through to my goal smoothly,” sophomore Emily Rodriguez said.

Sophomore Isaac Carpenter agreed.

I think it is good to plan it out early,” Carpenter said. “If something doesn’t work out you have learned what to do and you have a second or third plan.”

Maize Career Academy offers classes focusing on specific career paths such as the medical field, law and public safety, engineering, and culinary arts. MCA coordinator Lindsay King wants to help both students who know their plan and those who are still undecided.

For students who know what they would like to do after they graduate, we want to provide courses, programs, and opportunities, including internships, college credit, and certifications to prepare them to be successful,” King said. “For students, who are unsure about what they would like to do after they graduate, we want to provide opportunities to explore different areas through a variety of courses, college and career nights, field trips and guest speakers.”

Debes said it is crucial that students understand that their plan does not have to be definite and that plans change.

“Preparation and life circumstances will come together to cause most people to change careers multiple times before they retire,” Debes said.

Some of the pressure to determine a career comes from home, students say.

“Our generation needs to be reassured and wants to be accepted,” Ecord said. “If someone disagrees with what we want to do, our entire mindset changes and we think we are on the wrong path.”

But Rodriguez said she puts more pressure on herself than her parents do.

“It’s almost every kid’s dream to have their parents proud of them and that puts some stress on finding a job that will actually make them proud,” Rodriguez said.

Senior Hope Glover believes that parents should have some say in college decisions, especially if they are financially contributing, but in the end it is up to the students.

“Parents and older generations should take a backseat when it comes to planning our futures,” Glover said. “After all, we are the ones who have to live with these decisions. Shouldn’t we be passionate about what we do?”

Students said their parents often want them to make choices based on what they can earn. Maize college and career advocate Diane Close said students should consider more than how much money they will make when making career choices.

“Yes, money is important, but does the career interest you?” she said.  “Does it fit your personality?  As long as you can honestly answer these questions then it may be that you will be in the same field as your parents.

Getting into college is one thing for students to stress about, but some worry about getting into a distinguished college.
“Everything in the real world seems to be about connections and names,” Ecord said. “If someone sees you went to a school that has a good reputation and is well-known, there might be a greater chance to be hired.”

Along with the stress of getting accepted into a college, students also have to worry about the student loans and financing. Glover said she believes the cost of college is way too high.

“I often have to remind myself that college is a business before anything else,” Glover said.

Ecord says that she thinks about college and her future for at least half the week, maybe more.

“I am constantly getting emails and mail and that always reminds me I have to make a decision of where I am going to spend the next four years of my life, ” Ecord said.

Glover said she thinks about college all the time.

“It is my main focus seeing that applications are due in less than a month,” Glover said.

Lambert said she feels that students and herself should not have to be so worried about their futures in high school.

“We shouldn’t have to be pressured to do good in everything to get into a good college,” Lambert said.

The four years of high school are the years of planning, but those years go by fast.

“High school goes by insanely fast and before you know it you are a senior in high school not knowing what you are going to do and you only have eight to 10 months left to plan it,” Ecord said.