Career choice pressure on students is counterproductive

High school students today are under the gun to decide the kind of work they want to do after graduation or the major they should choose in college (“Let’s stop stressing out our kids with career choice pressure,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Mar. 11).  As a result, many are filled with needless anxiety.

The truth is that most young people change their minds before settling into a career.  In fact, about 30 percent of college students change majors before graduating.  Whether that’s because they discover they lack the wherewithal for a particular field or because they discover it doesn’t pay the rent.

Ideally, students would know at an early age what they want to do with their lives.  But those who do are outliers.  Most young people need to test their wings before committing.  Rather than add to their anxiety about the future, counselors and parents need to provide them with a reality check.  One of the best ways of doing so is to find them apprenticeships while they are still in school. Even volunteering for a few hours a week can help them immensely.

Other countries are far more demanding.  For example, Singapore begins tracking children on the basis of its Primary School Leaving exam. Germany sorts out students into vocational or academic tracks early on as well.  Whether such differentiation lessens stress or exacerbates it is hard to know.  But schools abroad have no compunction about doing so.

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