Seeing your future: stress, careers, and college



   Over the summer, I took a tour of the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Even though it was the middle of summer and I could barely see anything because the sun was so bright, I loved it.

   For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told to succeed at school so I can succeed in the future. The college counseling office gives every student the resources to grow more interested and knowledgeable about the college process. But, looking at score requirements and prerequisites can be stressful, making some students less confident in their abilities to get into their select college.

The more I dwell on the future, the more worried I become. I find myself asking, What if I don’t get accepted into any colleges? and What if my GPA drops below a perfect grade and my career options start to shrink?

   For many students, having a few bad grades throughout their four years in high school is inevitable. But a low grade doesn’t define anyone’s entire life, and high school allows opportunities outside of academics to show true character. Students spend four years building résumés, taking difficult courses and concentrating on succeeding later on in life. Extracurricular activities can show a lot about a person, even if his or her grades aren’t the best. And while having an impressive transcript senior year is enticing, taking so many AP courses that the possibility of falling behind is not.

   It’s normal to be stressed about the future. Personally, I have no idea what I want to major in or do as an adult. On my tour of UCLA, my group’s guide told us that the school’s most common major was undecided. At first, I was surprised by this. I didn’t realize that I could go to a university not knowing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Until that day, I thought that I had to have my future set in stone by the time I was 17. I used to obsess over searching for colleges. There were days where I spent hours scrolling through the list of majors at multiple schools, not knowing what I had any interests in. I was so fixated on my life after high school that I became overwhelmed with my own expectations for myself. I wanted to excel at every subject so my options would be open, staying up until I would fall asleep at my desk almost every night.

   Predicting your own life isn’t easy. In 2013, a study done by psychologists at Harvard University found that people were more likely to picture their changes from the past rather than think about changes for their future. In a TED talk, Daniel Gilbert– the psychologist who led the study– explained that changes in mindset and actions are easily addressed when thinking about the past, but trying to picture change in your life in a few years proved difficult for many people.

   “Most of us can remember who we were 10 years ago, but we find it hard to imagine who we’re going to be, and then we mistakenly think that because it’s hard to imagine, it’s not likely to happen,” Gilbert said.

   Listening to Dr. Gilbert’s TED talk not only gives a new perspective on how to think about the future but also on how people tend to dwell on the past. When thinking about their lives, people usually gravitate towards thinking about past events, not the possibilities of the future. Thinking about failures leads to an increase in stress about the future; so while some are picturing improvement in their lives, many are able to drag themselves down by focusing on their faults.

    Almost everyone that I’ve talked to here at Trinity has worried about their future once, if not many times, like me. And that’s alright. It’s important to realize that we all are working towards the same thing, being successful and happy for the rest of our lives. If the future is something that’s supposed to be great, why spend time thinking about the failures to come? Even if our future may dictate our lives, in the end, it’s our own choices that make us happy.

   Take a step back from worrying and relax. I find that I always feel better about myself when I take a second to live in the moment, not criticizing my faults. Although I need to focus on schoolwork sometimes, I need to focus on my wellbeing and happiness too. And despite not knowing where life is going, I know that the future has something great in store for every student, even if it can’t be seen clearly.