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Navigating Your Future: How to Plan Ahead

by Aggie Swituszak, Product Specialist

Entering my junior year of college has been overwhelming. In a year and a half from now, I will be graduating and entering the next chapter of my life, but what does that next chapter look like? All of us are on different paths in life personally, professionally, and academically, but how do we figure out which one to take?

One of my professors had liked to use class time (when they probably didn’t feel like teaching) to have us map out our short term, middle term, and long term goals. If I am being honest, I thought it was plain stupid. I had used the margins of the handout to doodle and wrote very loose goals such as “pass this class”, “graduate”, and “get a job or get my masters degree”. It has been two years since that class and since then I have learned about the obscenely large number of paths I can take in regards to my degree, my education, and what I want to do after I graduate.

This was, and honestly continues to be, intimidating. We are so young yet tasked with planning out what we want to do for the rest of our lives. I am not even sure what I am getting for dinner tonight. So, how do we plan for our future?

First, I would dedicate a place and time to sit somewhere quiet with a pen, paper, and a computer. If you aren’t already aware, research your college’s degree and internship programs. If you are looking at colleges, look at what the “best” subjects are there, what programs they have for you, and be sure to tour. My college offers 4+1 programs for certain majors, allowing you to get a Master’s degree in 5 years instead of the usual 6. If college is not for you, look into any trade schools, community college programs that interest you, or any careers you can reach out and learn more about.

Secondly, think “what do I need to get from A to B?”. Use the pen and paper and write/draw a map of what you would do. That can look like “tour xx, meet with financial aid office, meet with guidance counselor, submit my application by yy, continue to show interest” or “research how to become a hairdresser, go to beautician school, go to hair salon in town and ask for positions or apprenticeship opportunities”. Make this flow chart or list as detailed as you can. Figure out how many paths there are to choose from and narrow them down. Is it better to graduate college and enter the workforce and do night school for a Master’s, or should you just stay in school until you are totally done with your degree(s)? There are pros and cons to every path, so make sure you think about (and even jot down) what they are and which one feels the best for you. You have to feel comfortable in achieving the goals you have set out for yourself, so make them obtainable and something you actually want to do. This is not the time to do something just to “get it over with” or “because you have to”.

If you have a guidance counselor, advisor, teacher, or parent available, ask them as many questions as you need. You want to be well informed on all aspects of your career and what steps you need to take to be successful. Educational staff have the goal to not only teach you, but to support you in your academic journey. Sit down with them and ask them to help you figure out your options, more often than not they will happily accept.

At the end of the day, whatever path you take, you will be happy and successful. What does success look like? Everyone of us looks at success differently, it can mean getting into medical school, graduating high school, or getting out of bed in the morning. Know that your future is whatever you want to make of it, and planning it out can help relieve the existential stress the future can bring.


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