Starting to panic about PSE decisions? Try this unorthodox tip.

For plenty of high school students, post-secondary application deadlines loom and they still have no idea where to apply. What do you do if you (or your kid) fall into this camp? Perhaps it has come down to application time and you are completely lost as to what to do next. What should you do?

Nothing. That’s my advice. Do nothing.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but post-secondary education is expensive. We’re talking about spending thousands of dollars, right off the top, for a good number of students leaving high school. And maybe it’s just me, but I won’t spend $20 on a shirt I don’t completely love.

So, when it comes to your education, don’t rush into it if you have a tonne of misgivings about it. It’s a major commitment, financially, personally and professionally. Take the time you need to make the decision that fits you the best, given your current situation.

The jitters? Or something more?

Everyone gets the jitters about big life decisions. So how do you know it’s deep worry and not just jitters?  Here are a few clues:

  • You feel totally overwhelmed and anxious about the decision
  • You feel like the only person who doesn’t have solid plans after high school, or you’re lying to everyone about your plans to cover up the fact that you don’t know what to do
  • Your grades are slipping, and you’ve noticed changes in your eating or sleeping patterns
  • No post-secondary program really makes you feel excited

A better approach

One of the most helpful tools available in this instance is a gap year. Parents are often not fans of this idea. They think if their kid experiences the freedom of time away from school, they’ll never go back. But to paraphrase a colleague of mine, have you ever heard someone in a minimum wage job say “man, minimum wage is awesome! I’m gonna work like this forever!”

The key to an effective gap year is to make it intentional. It’s not about taking the easy way out and spending months on end playing video games. You’ll need to plan a year that involves working, volunteering and detailed career and education research. If you’re a parent, work with your kids to write out a plan and help keep them accountable to it. Are you the kid? Then get your parents, guardians or other trusted grown-up involved in the planning. If you’re looking for something more structured, there are a lot of programs available. A great place to start is the Canadian Gap Year Association.

It’s amazing how many people don’t know what they want in life – at every age! Taking time to explore and get to know yourself and the world a little bit better will help with developing lifelong interests and career goals.

Could you or your kid benefit from a conversation about the future? Check out the Services page for more info!

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