Erika Schiesl

Despite the pull from societal expectations, the individual is entitled to making their own choices.

Education’s value is personal

an opinion on the pivotal decisions that high school seniors face.

February 11, 2021

The expectation of high school seniors is this: at the age of 18 (or even 17), decide where you want to live for the next 4+ years of your life, what you want to study during said 4+ years, and basically choose what you want to do with your life.

These are daunting choices for people who have had little experience with living independently, some of which have never had a job before. Add the external pressure from family, peers, and the structure of high school education, and it’s easy to feel as though the only available options are bound to be oppressive. 

Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, the pathway projected on all students is to go through college and come out the other end ready to go into a career and build their own life. Most people get caught up in trying to follow in the footsteps of others and make their loved ones proud, but I believe that is a cycle that can be shamelessly broken.

It’s true that the option to attend college is a privilege that is not accessible to everyone and can be a valuable experience both academically and socially. However, that isn’t always the case. The structure of college can be stressful and cause people to lose interest in their passions or pose an unnecessary obstacle to reaching a goal.

Some people know what career they want to pursue, while others, like me, have a dozen different directions they may take. The beauty of it is that all ideas in mind are valid and worth consideration. Whether it be all the way through medical school, a four-year university, a two-year, a trade school, or straight into work, the important thing is to enjoy oneself and continue to set goals.

It’s challenging to make personal decisions about the future when there is so much outside influence. There are parents that have dreamed of their children establishing themselves as doctors and other prestigious careers, as well as parents who didn’t have the opportunity themselves to attend college and have worked to be able to allow their children to get that chance. Some parents simply want their kids to stay kids and shudder at the thought of them going off on their own. Regardless, it is crucial to follow personal hopes preceding those of loved ones without the worry of straying from the expected path.

For something that often earns unsolicited advice and is so widely discussed, choosing a career is an extremely personal decision. Careers provide the money needed to pay rent, purchase food, and have the means to travel or do other fun things. Career choices should be partly determined by one’s desired lifestyle; for instance, it would be difficult to be a pilot or flight attendant if time spent at home is a priority.

Even if money is the first concern, a college degree is not necessary. Trade school or the development of a personal business are viable options that have the potential to become quite lucrative. Apprenticeships, or jobs that only require certification, such as becoming an EMT, are also accessible without a degree. All in all, it is essential to keep in mind that there are countless options available if the university system seems more limiting than liberating.

I have adults in my life of all different academic backgrounds, and the best conclusion I can draw is that their level of education has no correlation with their value as a person. I admire those who take risks in order to pursue what truly makes them happy, and I hope that people continue to choose what is right for them, no matter what external pressures they may face, and without regard to conventional education.

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