Why College Doesn’t Have to Happen at 18

I grew up with an older brother who always had a plan for his life. At 4, he knew that he wanted to work for NASA and by 5, he had his 30-year plan figured out. He always knew what college he wanted to go to and what to major in and what career choices to make. Even when his life plan fell apart, he made a different plan just so he could make a new life plan.

I’m the polar opposite. When I was four, I was really good at coloring and loved Disney movies, so my mom would always talk to me about becoming an animator. That was my plan for a few years. Until I decided that I wanted to design roller coasters and become an Imagineer. Then I decided that I wanted to be a wedding planner. Then I decided that being a nurse would be fun. Then I debated teaching for a while. I’m 21, I’ve graduated college, all of those career paths still sound fun to me, and I still have no idea what I’m doing with my life.

When I enrolled in college, I went to orientation with the idea that I was going to double-major in English and Engineering. I had always excelled at math in high school, and I really loved to write. I figured that I’d do one thing that I loved and one that would give me job security. At orientation, my freshman advisor told me that I wasn’t allowed to sign up for classes until I chose one or the other. I argued with her for a while, but she just kept saying that they were too different, and I would never be able to handle it.

I finally gave in and chose English because I’d always heard people say that you should choose what you love over what you’re good at if you want to live a happy life. Then, two years later when I graduated (Joke’s on you, Iowa! I probably would’ve given you 4 years of tuition if you would’ve just let me double major!), I had no idea what I was going to do with my English degree.

It’s been six months, and I’m still lost. I’ve spent the last six months incessantly calling my mom to discuss career moves. We’ve talked nursing school, med school, education degrees, and MFA programs until we were blue in the face. And guess what? I still have no idea. None. Absolutely no idea what I’m going to do. Currently, I’m a representative for Mutual of Omaha, I babysit a couple times a week, and I just got a Social Media Marketing internship with Bridesmaid for Hire.

I’ve applied for tons of different jobs in tons of different industries. I’ve gone on multiple nanny interviews and was actually offered three different positions. I became a resident of Washington in case I want to go back to school. And I’ve spent most of my time regretting my English degree.

Obviously a lot of this has to do with my own indecisive nature, but I also think that it has to do with the culture in America. I never considered not going to college right away, not for even one second. It never even crossed my mind, and honestly, it never felt like an option. The only option that I thought I had was to go to college and pick a major. I blame 21st Century America for that.

I should’ve never gone to college right away. That’s not to say that college was a mistake, but it is to say that I should’ve taken some time off and figured out what the heck it is that I want to do with my life. Just because everyone seems to go to college at 18, doesn’t mean that has to be your plan. It’s okay to wait a few years. I didn’t know how many nanny positions are constantly available in big cities. I wish someone would’ve told me to move away, find a nanny position, and figure it out before I ever enroll in a college that’s going to put me in debt for what feels like the rest of my life.

My social media feeds are constantly filled with high school and college students who are complaining about family members asking things like: “Where are you going to college?” “What are you majoring in?” “What do you want to do with your major?” “What’re you going to do after college?” “What’s your plan?”

And I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to answer and act like you have everything figured out. There are some kids who grow up and always know what they want to do, and they should pursue that. They should go to college right away, and they should fulfill their life plan. But that’s not how everyone is wired, and that’s okay.

If there’s one thing that I wish that I could tell every high school senior in America, it’s that it’s okay to not have any idea what you want to do with your life. If you don’t know where you want to go to college or what you want to major in or what career you want to choose, that’s okay. Just slow down, take some time, and figure it out. Forcing every single 18-year-old in America to make career decisions that are going to affect the rest of their life when they still don’t understand how taxes work is crap.

I still wish that I was like my older brother and had everything figured out. I think we all wish that, but that’s not the case. Someday, I’ll have everything figured out, but that’s not today, and that’s okay. It took me a long time to learn that, and I just wish that someone would’ve told me when I was 18 and confused.

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2 thoughts on “Why College Doesn’t Have to Happen at 18

  1. You are wise beyond your years, Ms. Kaelly! I am proud to know you and look forward to the amazing things you will do in your life. From someone who is struggling to pay off a mountain of college debt that I won’t even finish before I die, thank you!

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