Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Eighteen and Know It All

My employer awards scholarships to Indiana and Ohio high school seniors in our trade area who plan to study agriculture in college.

Before I go any further – the submission deadline has passed.

Part of my role within the company is to compile these applications and prepare them for review by our Youth Development Committee. My contact information is on the application, making me three things: susceptible to a constantly exceeded inbox volume, available to confirm last-minute receipt of applications (23 arrived on the deadline...been there, done that) and also be on the line to answer any questions.

Annually we hear from some of the most promising kids in the future of agriculture. It’s always an encouraging experience, seeing how many seniors have a desire to enter the agriculture field, in any capacity. Vet school, economics, communications, marketing, equine therapy, the list of ways students want to pursue agriculture goes on and on.

Annually I also receive a lot of phone calls.
Did you get my application?
Did page 4 come through?
Does my transcript need to be sealed?
Can I hand deliver?
Do you still have a fax machine?
Can you read my son’s handwriting?
And more.

But the question I get every year that really grabs my attention usually comes from a parent. Even more so often from a Mom. On the telephone. It’s typically a question, then a hurried explanation, followed usually by a sigh of relief.
The question/explanation/sigh of relief usually goes something like this:

"Does Jean (name replaced to protect the innocent and overwhelmed) need to declare a major to submit this application? Because she knows she wants to go into agriculture but she isn’t sure exactly what field. And she isn’t event quite sure what university she will end up at. She is still waiting to hear from one more before she makes a decision and it’s hard to declare a major when you don’t know for certain where you’re going to study. She could end up in Indiana, Illinois or Oklahoma – and each offer something different. It’s just a lot to be so sure of right now for this scholarship…"

Everyone needs to take a deep breath.

I reassure the parent that if the student lists an ag major, they can fully explain their intentions on page 4 of the application.

What I really want to do is reassure them 
that their kid won’t be discounted 
because they don’t have their life figured out 
at 18 years old.

Life figured out at 18 years old?
What does that even look like?

Eighteen years old.
Just enough exposure to curriculum and hobbies that a kid is supposed to draw in pen – or size 12 font - the path for the rest of their life.

The truth is that a large percentage of students who declare a major when entering a college or university will eventually change it to better suit their passions and developed interests by the time they graduate. Me, for instance. I started at Purdue in astronautical engineering and graduated in agriculture communications. And if you'll buy that, I'll throw the golden gate in free. 

So, you college bound students, drowning in fillable PDFs and watermarked transcripts and checking the mailbox everyday for some type of acceptance. And you, students who would much rather pursue a hands-on trade rather than spend another minute in a classroom (Your path is just as important as someone going to a 4-year college. Sometimes we don’t need another lawyer. Sometimes this world needs a talented contractor or welder who will return a phone call):

Whether college bound or bound to build/repair/create something with your hands: You need not have your life plans chiseled in stone right now. What do you really need to know at eighteen years old?

How to get out of bed without hitting the snooze button
This is serious.
You’re in your prime (though these are not the best years of your life, trust me)! When that alarm goes off, your boots (figuratively speaking) should be on the ground within 30 seconds. This is how you learn to manage your own schedule and your own time. This is how you learn to make it to your 7:30 lab without your mother busting through your bedroom door yelling that you’re about to miss the bus. Seize the day and the save the snooze for later in life. Like when you’re 31.

How to work for someone else and follow his or her instructions
This is even more serious.
You will never reach your goals if you cannot learn to take instruction. This does not mean that you’re destined to work for someone else your entire life. This means that the ability to follow written or verbal instructions will serve you well when you’re filling out your first job application out of college. It will serve you even better when you’re responsible for pouring decorative concrete at a building destined to bring back the heart of an old American town. This means that your ability to actively engage as part a team will give you an edge when trying to figure out an employee or procedural issue at work. This means that when you learn to respect someone enough to follow their lead knowing that it’s for a greater good, you’ll gain the respect of those around you at the work place, too.

You are enough
This is the most serious of them all.
Maybe you don’t have your major declared, maybe you do.
Maybe you haven’t yet met someone and thought, “They have my dream job”, maybe you have.
Maybe you haven’t determined your living situation for the next six months.
Maybe you’ve already committed to a school or program for the year ahead and you’re already having second thoughts on being that far from home.
Wherever you are on this path to life after high school: you are enough. Where you are right now is enough.

Be confident in all that you are and all that you are yet to be. Is your life’s path written in contractor pencil rather than fine point Sharpie? That’s on purpose. 

God’s plan for your life far exceeds 
anything you can imagine right now!

And while it’s very good for you to have a roadmap of which you’d like to move forward, as a senior in high school don’t let your heart be discouraged because you can’t declare your dream job and describe it on paper. Some forty year olds haven’t even made it that far, yet. Don’t ever discount your 18-year-old self for still exploring all that may lie ahead. Move forward, learn more, get experience under your belt. 
Do you think Columbus discovered America because he had a map?
That was a bad example.

Here. Read this and save it for all the career fairs in your future for which you’ll get a fresh haircut.

As a senior about to graduate you should know three things:
  1. How to get out of bed without hitting the snooze button
  2. How to work for someone else and follow his or her instructions
  3. You are enough 

You have a lot of choices ahead (choices to do the right thing, go the right place, spend time with the right people, and more) and I trust you’ll make the right ones. Your parents haven’t killed you up until this point: make them glad they didn’t!

 And to the stressed out parents calling me freaking out about the internet connection or the kid's indecisiveness to choose a career path: Take a deep breath. This too shall pass. 

Unless you're the parent of the kid who wrote in his application that he's the oldest of eight children. You have every right to be a little edgy with the gal accepting scholarship applications. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Going through a good bit of this stuff with our daughter who is about to graduate high school. I've already printed this out for her to read. Maybe not coming from her parents it will mean something! Fingers crossed. :)