Picking a Major/Path

major

by Alia

Many of us are asked at a young age what we want to be when we grow up. For some of us the answer stays the same, but for many of us the answer changes over time. In some families and cultures certain paths or careers are seen as better than others. For example, parents might tell us what we should become when we’re older.

Parents usually just want what’s best for their children, they want their children to be successful and bring pride to the family name. The problem in many cases is that parents don’t always know what is truly best – they know what they wish they did with their lives, they know what opportunities they didn’t have, they know what jobs are seen as good by the masses.

If your parent or other parental-like figure is telling you who you should become, then really ask yourself who’s dream job is this? Is it just theirs – or yours also? If you are feeling pressured to become a doctor or a lawyer or something high-paying or respectable like that by your parents take a step back and look at yourself. What do you want to be when you’re older? What do you want to be right now? What are your passions? If it’s not the same as what your parents want for you, then maybe what your parents want isn’t right for you.

Why do so many college students switch majors? In my opinion, it’s because they go into a field not sure what their true passions are. In high school most of us aren’t exposed to the world and all of its possibilities. We only see what our high school and other things in life have shown us.

It’s not just young college students dealing with this either. You might think what you’re going to become is dead-set, but be prepared for changes because they are going to happen. Your path isn’t set until you’ve made it to the end of your journey. As long as you’re alive your path can always change, you can always change as a person. Your passions can change, they can become more or less clear with time.

You are less likely to change your major when you know and understand what really drives you inside. If you’re not doing it for yourself, someday the motivation will dwindle. Exerting yourself for others’ dreams and passions when you don’t share those dreams and passion will eventually wear you down.

Do it for you.

It’s your life, so why should anyone else be writing off your story or your destiny. This may sound like a debate on free will, but let me tell you, some things will happen no matter what and some things are just up to you in life. What you like, what drives you – that’s up to you and no one else.

What if you don’t know what you like, you don’t know your passion in life?

Like I said, be prepared for changes. Maybe you don’t know right now, but you will know some day. College isn’t for everyone. Maybe taking some time off to find yourself is what you need. Explore some different jobs, explore the world, explore yourself and your values. Let time tell the story you don’t yet know. If you’re very passionate about going to college or feel like you have to, then go!

Try liberal arts or another major that lets you explore your options. Do your generals and take a variety of different classes until something clicks inside and you finally know where you want to go. Trial and error is one of the best teachers throughout life’s journey. Some things you have to learn for yourself. All of us have weaknesses and all of us have strengths, so find yours, and that will help you uncover your passion someday.

What if your problem is not that you don’t know your passion – what if you want to do too many things? What if you love too many things, and are passionate about too many things?

Don’t listen if someone tells you to pick just one, don’t lower that bar on your options. Be free and express yourself in everything you love. Some things will become hobbies over time, but never completely give up on your passions just because they become hobbies.

Life can take so many turns so always have a back-up plan and back-up plan for your back-up plan.

Be talented and passionate in multiple things so that no matter what is thrown at you, you can still keep going. My uncle only studied one field, he did well in that one field until it no longer existed. He didn’t have a back-up plan and he never saw this change happening. Now he is jobless and just barely scrapping along because he doesn’t believe he can do anything else.

Don’t be like my uncle, be open and explorative to your options. A hobby could become a career and a career could become a hobby. Don’t limit yourself; be bold and be you. I am double majoring because I couldn’t choose just one thing to be and guess what? I would triple or quadruple major if I was able to. Maybe it sounds like a lot of work, but I am passionate about what I’m studying and so far I haven’t had any problems. This could be you too. The wonderful thing about college is you get to decide what you do for yourself. No one is going to hold your hand and say “be there,” or “do this,” or “you have to”. You get to say those things to yourself because finally it’s something you care about.

College shouldn’t be a chore, it should be the education and experience you always wished you had before. Some people think that can only happen outside of college, but college is an open door and you can do whatever you put your mind to.

You’re only limited by your thinking – by your imagination. Nothing is impossible. Never tell yourself that you can’t do something or become something someday. Maybe odds are stacked against you, but break those odds because there is no one on this Earth like you and averages or stereotypes shouldn’t define what you’re capable of.

Choose your path for yourself and maybe some things will not be in your control, but this is something you decide. If you’re thinking money will stop you, guess what? There are countless scholarships and other ways to pay for college, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. There are programs like Power of You that will pay for it all, if you can do your part.

So don’t falter under the dollar because that piece of fabric ain’t worth the worry when it’s your dreams and your life we are talking about. If you think you don’t have the brains or the skill, guess what? You can develop the brains, you can cultivate the skill. It doesn’t matter how old you are as long as you have the drive. Don’t let people step on your dreams because no one can stop you from dreaming.

A Guide to Cliff-Jumping: Handling Senior Year Stress

Senior-Struggles-2.jpg3_

by Avery

My senior year of high school felt like walking closer and closer to the edge of a cliff.

I pictured graduation as the point at which I would jump off, not to certain death or anything quite so drastic, but into a whole new world to learn to navigate, a huge gaping unknown. While I was terribly excited for the jump, the idea of losing the feeling of my feet on the ground I was so familiar with was a little stressful.

Senior year can be terrifying, super fun, super tense, exciting, or confusing. It can seem to take forever or whiz by scary-fast. Handling all of these feelings can be extremely hard, not to mention that if you plan on going to college, you will have an absurd number of details to keep track of.

The stress I experienced didn’t come from my schoolwork, but from logistics—the worry that I couldn’t “get it all done” in time. Myself being a pretty poorly-organized individual, I probably made these details harder to manage than they had to be. So, dear reader, please learn from my mistakes!

Senior year stress seems to come in two main phases:

First: Securing your parachute, getting snacks for the road, arranging transportation, quadruple checking your parachute…Sorry to bring back this cliff metaphor, but bear with me.

This is college/future-related stress. It’s when there are always more details creeping up on you. You’re busy as heck touring colleges, writing application essays, applying for scholarships, etc. This time requires a lot of decision making as well as hard work, which can be a lethal combination. Here are some suggestions for handling this death-by-details stress:

  1. Keep a calendar of your deadlines and requirements. At the beginning of each week, make goals of what you need to accomplish, and write out the specific steps necessary. Give every task a few extra days to account for slow “processing”.
  2. Keep track of who you need to talk to. Maybe it’s your counselor or teachers. Remember that these people are very busy around this time, and you may need to give them extra time to accomplish tasks like sending your transcript or writing letters of recommendation. Waiting for others (such as your counselor) can be one of the most stressful things about this time. But remember, once a task is out of your hands, you can’t do anything else about it, so just let it go. Chances are, there are better places to channel your energy than worrying whether or not your transcript has arrived at a college. (That said, it’s okay to send a follow-up email if the person has not responded within a reasonable amount of time – sometimes people need a reminder)
  3. Consider setting aside a few hours each week for “future planning”. What this means will differ for everyone. Maybe it entails sorting out your graduation requirements. Working on remedial coursework or online classes. Some folks are planning on working straight after high school, which may require less planning. Still, you can always polish up your resume or start the job hunt now.

Second: “Phase two stress”, as I’ll call it, is more like walking towards the edge of the cliff. It’s the time when you realize high school is ending soon. And life is about to change. You may be battling restlessness/“senioritis” (a lack of focus and extreme boredom at school) as well as a desire to cling to what you know. I guarantee that most of your peers are equally frazzled by this, so talk to them!

Oh yeah, and this is when you start receiving letters back from colleges if you’re going that route (maybe this is like picking out the specific ledge you’ll jump from… Maybe we can let this metaphor die). Be proud of every acceptance you get, you worked hard for that! Try to take rejections in stride, too, even though it may sting terribly. And remember, a rejection isn’t always about you, per se. Schools have to make quotas of certain demographic categories so try not to take a rejection too personally.

I think the best way of handling this stress is to spend time with people you care about. Take time to appreciate the good people in your life and take time for relaxing too. Try to put future-thoughts out of your mind for an hour each day. Your decision making abilities may improve after having a little time off.

So, yes, this is a bizarre and scary time, but all that being said, I really did enjoy much of my senior year. I had less homework, fewer classes, and more time to spend with my friends and family. After making the decision to take a gap year and deciding on my college, I was just so excited! Hopefully you can get excited, too.

As spring rolls around, breathe in that sweet scent of freedom…graduation is coming, and so is your senior summer, which might be one of the best times ever.

Filling out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

FAFSA Steps

by Lucillia

Thinking back to my senior year, the year when high school students must fill out the FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid), I procrastinated doing it. Besides regular schoolwork, college applications and scholarships, it felt like just another application that I honestly did not want to fill out. Anyways, as I have come to find out with most things, it was not that bad after I just did it. I think I filled it out in half an hour.

Completing the FAFSA is one of the most important steps on the path to college – whether that means technical school, community college, or a 4-year college or university. The way my old College Possible coach put it is that with the FAFSA, you are literally getting money for filling out your personal information.

Here are my tips for filling out the FAFSA:

  • MAKE SURE YOU FILL OUT THE FAFSA.
  • GET HELP! You want to make sure that you fill out the FAFSA correctly. There’s lots of help available. If you’re a Minneapolis Public Schools student, go straight to your Career & College Center, which has lots of great FAFSA workshops, resources and personal support. Or talk with one of your high school counselors.They’re there to help you!
  • DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use fake sites like FAFSA.com. Make sure that you only use the ACTUAL FAFSA site at https://fafsa.ed.gov. The help tab on the home page, as well as the Frequently Asked Questions section, are really helpful.
  • FAFSA is absolutely free to fill out. You will know if you are on a fraud web site if it asks you for payment.
  • Carefully read everything. Directions are there for a reason! I know a woman who changed her last name, and because the FAFSA requires your birth name, everything got messed up, and basically she had to wait a whole year to go to school and fill out the application again the following year. YIKES!
  • You also have to fill out the FAFSA every year you are in school.
  • My coach sent me this YouTube link with videos about the basics and it was really helpful. Check it out!

Fill out that FAFSA — and good luck!

Those Pesky High School Counselors

high school counselor images

by Alia

Today I want to talk about counselors, many of us avoid them like the plague.

Well guess what? Counselors may be hard to deal with at times, but their help is golden/key to your success. When you first start high school it’s okay to brush off your counselor(s) a bit, but in your second year you need to be on them about your requirements and dream classes.

If you leave your counselor unattended for more than a year they might totally mess you up. Counselors are the “order” people, their job is to keep you on track to graduate and help coordinate your schedule.

Ask yourself what classes you have to take to graduate.

All students have specific requirements, for example math, social studies, English, PE, health, and science. Make sure you have taken and passed those classes before the end of your senior year. Divide them up so you take an English, social studies, science and math class each year. Depending on your school you may not have to take a math or science class in your senior year, but colleges will think fondly of you and accuplacer tests will be easier if you do so.

The order in which you do PE and health classes usually doesn’t matter. I did both my PE and health requirements during my Junior and Senior year surrounded by crazy freshmen who would not take it seriously. Not all freshmen are wild and crazy, but many are.

When you’re a freshmen, you can go one of three ways with your schedule. You can 1) be proactive do everything you have to do so you don’t have to later; 2) wait and take a break from requirements and take what you want; or 3) you can do a mix of those two options.

It’s ideal to make a plan of schedules to come before going to your counselor. If you come to your counselor prepared with the knowledge of what you want to do and what you need to do, not only will you look smart and capable, but your counselor will take you more seriously. Having a concrete plan to follow versus picking classes at random could be the difference between graduating or not.

Here is an example of a schedule planning table

Year Social Studies Math/Other Science/Other English Other
Freshmen geography algebra 1 biology English 9 art & music
Sophomore world history geometry chemistry English 10 PE 1&2
Junior us history algebra 2 physics English 11 Health 1&2
Senior economics/

government

pre calc or elective IB/AP science class or elective English 12 Some other electives 

In no way does this example have to be your class schedule, but this example sheds some light on how to format a schedule plan to present to your counselor. It is always a good thing to take at least one IB/AP class throughout high school. It’s better to take more than one, but not everyone is cut out for that kind of extra work (also the tests aren’t easy).

Create some sort of relationship with your counselor; try to be “friends” (not like hang out or anything, but share some personal info and get to know them/let them get to know you). Having some contextual knowledge about you will help your counselor keep your values in mind and getting to know your counselor will help you know in what ways you can rely on them as a counselor.

Be careful when dealing with counselors, not all of them are on top of it. Think about if you were a counselor, would you be able to manage the success of hundreds of students? Counselors have a life too, they’re not always in the best condition to counsel.

If your counselor says you can substitute a class for PE 1 or 2, DO NOT DO IT!!! There is a special curriculum that is followed in PE classes that are not followed in similar classes. This special curriculum is what makes PE a graduation requirement. It’s like putting a student who has been playing guitar for 7 years in a piano class for students who have been playing piano for 7 years. The two classes may be similar, but they focus around two totally separate things. This may also apply to other classes that are required for graduation such as certain English and math classes, however, situations vary.

You can choose to take some classes online or through PSEO (in a college setting), before doing so you should talk with your counselor to see how this will fit in your schedule and if it is right for you. Not everyone has the work ethic to do classes online, I myself failed PE online and was rather embarrassed by it. PSEO is a great opportunity to not only learn at a college level, but see what taking college classes is like. The problem is the deadlines, make sure you tell your counselor you want to get in before the deadline runs out.

If you failed a required class in the past you should talk about it with your counselor so you can figure out how to make up the needed credits before you graduate. I know some students who didn’t get to graduate because they were a few credits short, make sure to check in with your counselor regularly to make sure you’re on track and record what they say (because they might change what they say later: warning). Perhaps have them email you or sign something to certify you are on track and not missing anything.

I know someone who checked in with his counselor regularly to make sure he could graduate on time (he was a senior). His counselor put him in appropriate classes to catch up on credits, he did all of his work and even bought his cap/gown for graduation.

On the day before the graduation ceremony he realized his name was not on the list of graduates, he went to his counselor to find out what was the problem and his counselor said he/she forgot to tell him he was still missing 3 credits despite everything. Don’t be a victim like my friend was, stay on top of your classes and manage your counselor.

To avoid such problems stay a step ahead. Know more than or as much as your counselor on your progress and what you need to do. Don’t rely solely on your counselor, get others involved in your success in case your counselor’s help fails or something happens to them during a time of need. Print out your transcript to help see what areas you have completed and what areas you still need to complete.

When you sign up for classes, your counselor usually has the last say. If you feel taking a certain class is important make sure to communicate that to your counselor so they know not to take if off of your list.

Depending on what classes you take first your senior year may be compact with little to no wiggle room. If you really like a class, but don’t have room for it in your schedule look into taking a related club (math = math club; debate = debate team; art = mural/art club; music = band/jazz combo; gym = a sport…etc.) Make sure you get done what needs to be done above all else. Don’t ignore your passions, but also don’t let them get in your way of graduating.

If you’re having trouble with a counselor (they keep changing their story or aren’t helping you), then go to the next highest official like the assistant principal or the principal. If the next highest official is unable to help talk to a dean or close teacher and maybe they can help or at least give you some advice (they’ve got experience). If no one in your school appears to be able to help you in your academic success, go to the school board or consider changing schools.

Graduating is important in the world today. Some don’t think it will amount to anything or they’re not graduation material, but that is not so. Everyone who goes to school and tries their best can graduate, sometimes it takes a year or two extra to do so, but everyone has the potential. Graduating or not could mean the difference between getting a nice job or even a job at all.

Life happens.

Some of us have jobs, family conflicts, life-changing dilemmas, children, sick family members, mental illnesses, relationship drama, biological deformities/differences, physical illnesses, bullies, and/or an unstable environment that often gets in the way of doing school work or being able to go to school. Don’t let these things get in the way; if need be take a break from school, but don’t give up on it.

Counselors can be great resources, be sure to use their advice and that your voice is being heard.

To set up an appointment with your counselor go to the main office and request to meet with him/her. If you don’t know who your counselor is, ask the person at the office desk if they can look it up for you or how you might find out.