Forced to Plan Your Future When You Are 14?

I have written many many posts about Michelle’s quest to choose a college major.  If you’ve been following along you will have heard that she’s considered everything from Graphic Design to Botany to Religion and is back to Graphic Design.  You also won’t be surprised that she’s waffling on that again right now. 

This indecision seems normal to me.  She’s young.  She has a lot of living still to do.  And she still some growing up to do.  All I can say is thank goodness she’s had the freedom and the support to explore any area that caught her interest and thank goodness she still has the freedom and the support to do this.  Kids all over the country are a lot less lucky than she has been.  Kids all over the country are being forced to declare a major in 9th grade.

A 14 year old choosing a major based on her limited life experiences?  A 14 year old choosing a major based on her parents’ ideas about what she should be when she grows up?  A 14 year old choosing a major based on what she THINKS she likes today but probably won’t like four years from now because she’s a KID and kids ideas change.  That’s why they don’t vote when they’re 14.  That’s why they don’t drive when they’re 14.  That’s why we don’t kick them out of the nest when they’re 14. 

I’m completely in favor of encouraging the kids who DO know what they want to spend the rest of their lives doing.  I’m completely in favor of offering a wide range of educational opportunities for kids to choose from and then allowing them to narrow their focus if that’s what they really want to do.  But forcing them to choose? What happens when they change their minds?

How will these kids jump from being English majors to being Computer majors?  Will they be allowed to opt out of the Art track and into the Health Science track?  What will their specialized diplomas look like if they are allowed to jump tracks?  And how will those specialized diplomas effect their ability to change tracks once they get to college?

I’m not amused by any of this.


38 responses to “Forced to Plan Your Future When You Are 14?

  1. Potentially stupid assumption but aren’t some subjects not even really taught until high school? Or even the later years of high school? How are you supposed to know that you want to major in calculus if all you’ve taken is pre-calculus? Or have done biology but no dissecting? Or chemistry without haven done any significant experiments?

    Stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time – and that’s saying something cause I hear a lot of stupid things.

  2. 9th grade?!? I couldn’t even pick a major (or at least not one I actually liked) until third year of undergrad!

  3. I remember having to fill out all kinds of quizzes and being told to start deciding what I wanted to do in 9th grade. I hated it!

  4. I totally understand about changing majors! I thought I needed to get a News-Editorial major in order to be a book editor. But when I got down to it, I hated the classes I was going to have to take. I decided to switch to English, particularly Creative Writing, so that way I can get both aspects of the job–the editor’s perspective and the writer’s perspective.

    Honestly, no one KNOWS what they want to do until they start taking classes for it. Give her my encouragement.

  5. It is totally crazy that kids are being expected to decide on a major just starting 9th grade. Seems like it is way too early to make decisions for the rest of your life, when you are only 14.
    I remember the Apititude tests that we took in high school, and according to those I should be a forest ranger, living by myself somewhere in the wilderness, instead of being a wife and mother…..

    I thought high school was supposed to be at least a little bit of fun, guess someone decided that our kids don’t need that..

  6. My Daughter has known what career path she wants to take since she was about 8 years old. All she has ever wanted to do is dance in a Professional Ballet Company. She dances 20+ hours a week and goes to summer intensive programs. If she doesn’t end up in a Company she wants to be a choreographer. My DD is even choosing a college in with an amazing dance program (I tild her College is a must!). Most of her friends that are 14-16 have no idea what they want to major in College. I think that is the norm of most Freshamn and Sophmore kids.

  7. My Daughter has known what career path she wants to take since she was about 8 years old. All she has ever wanted to do is dance in a Professional Ballet Company. She dances 20+ hours a week and goes to summer intensive programs. If she doesn’t end up in a Company she wants to be a choreographer. My DD is even choosing a college in with an amazing dance program (I tild her College is a must!). Most of her friends that are 14-16 have no idea what they want to major in College. I think that is the norm of most Freshamn and Sophmore kids.

  8. My daughter has to do that too! It really frustrates me too. My daughter is like yours, but she’s been kind of insistent that she will be an interior designer. We will see though.

    I am having a hard time seeing the rationale in doing something like that (choosing a major). There are days when I question myself.

  9. All I know is that my 9th grader wants to go into Science. Right now he is in Honors Chemistry/Physics. He understands that the Science field is very broad, but he is taking all his necessary Math courses to go along with it. Making a child choose what they want to go into at the age of 14 is just ridiculous! Even as adults we don’t even know what we want at times. All the Istep (state required tests) do is add more pressure. Kids need to be kids and not be robbed of their imagination.

  10. I don’t have aclue what you are talking about and I am a high school teacher. Kids are not forced to make any decisions. They are told they need to consider what their future plans are when choosing classes, but declare a major at that age. It doesn’t make sense. Most will change their minds numerous times before they graduate from high school, not to mention those that go to college and change their major. Students are required to take certain classes and the others are considered electives. English and computer classes are required subjects. Art is an elective…I don’t see what the problem is.

  11. My 14 year old son just started high school August 20, but he had to pick a major while he was still in 8th grade last year. I think it is too much pressure for a 14 year old to pick a career when my 18 year old is not sure what she wants to do yet. I don’t think the law makers and the school board remember what it was like to be 14.

  12. I think it is crazy. Thanks god my kids go to a creative arts school. It is one f the best things I could have done. They put no presure on the kids like that at all. But I do know what you are going thur. My nefew has to pick a carrer track in 9th grade and once he had picked he can not change. that is crazy and worse then that they really do not even get it pick it. they take a couple of “quizes” then it is chose for them.

  13. My 16 year old son has changed his “life decision” many times, and I can only assume he will change it many more.
    I went to a 4 year college for 1 thing, graduated with a degree, and never found a job in that field. Went to community College for something else (after my kids were born), hated it, changed my major, never graduated, and have never regreted it.
    I’ve told both my boys that they need to find something that will make them happy to work in that field for possible the rest of their lives.

  14. Planning is fine… but the reality is that there is a BIG difference between how kids feel in 9th grade and what they think when the time comes to take college entrance exams and start visiting colleges! My son, who is 14, has only been in high school for a week..(9th grader). He hasn’t taken any economics or engineering or any types of classes that begin to expose him to the endless opportunities out there! Gimme a break… and the kids too. I have a daughter who is a college sophomore and is still deciding a major and minor among youth ministry, journalism and psychology. She will be fine and graduate with a degree to guide her along a career path doing something she has passion for. I can’t imagine any 14 year old having a firm grip on how they will make a living several years from now… the world is filled with endless opportunites…. let kids explore science, the arts, music, language, technology, history… then they have some background for making college level decisions!

  15. Its a great idea that as soon as a student enters high school, they should have an idea on what they want to major in college. I have a 14 year old son who decided when he was in 8th grade last year. He wants to major in Chemistry and also become a French Chef, plus he wants to earn a football scholarship. This gives him the incentive to do well in high school and have a good GPA when he enter college. My 20 year old decided when he entered 9th grade that he wanted to major in architecture. He is currently in his 3rd year of college and majoring in architecture and computer science. My sons have great expectations and deciding early in life on what they want is great.

  16. I, just like most of you don’t think a child that is only 13 or 14 should have to make their lifes’ decision. They may want to know what direction they want to go in,(just to give them some direction to focus on and strive for) but most don’t have a clue. What I have done with my girls (9th & 10th graders) is put in their minds that they are going to college. Period. Therefore, get all the college pre-req’s out of the way…(x amount of years of science, foreign language etc.) Keep your grades up. Nothing less than a B or privleges get taken away for more studying time. Keep an idea in mind of what they THINK they want to do and go from there. They are both involved in school activities, sports and volunteer around our community which all also look good on a college application. Are they over extended? No. Not at all. They are home everynight (unless there is an away game), we all have dinner together at the kitchen table and they still have lots of free time to enjoy being a kid. For whatever it’s worth, One daughter wants to be a Pediatrician and the other a Marine Scientist.

  17. My kids were asked whether or not they wanted to take what is called the college path, the technical path, or a combination of both in high school as a freshman. I think they were to young to be asked “What do I want to do when I grow up?” when many of us grownups are still asking that question ouselves. We are forcing kids not to be kids anymore. I think it starts in elementary school and snowballs all the way through high school.

  18. I agree with the majority here. To pick a major at that age is ludicrous. Many kids will continue to change their minds in college. They should take classes that they have an academic interest in and have potential at. English and the Social Studies are the most important(for good citizens in our country and world wide understanding) The sciences and math for those who can handle it. Kids need to experinece all the subjects to have an idea of what direction to go in.

  19. I have 2 daughters (14, 16), we recently moved from a school system that begins putting kids into GROUPS based on what profession that have chosen. The counselors then guide them to take the right classes. I agree with the others, how are kids age 14 supposed to know what they want to do with their lives. Thru-out school I wanted to be a lawyer, I ended up being a computer analyst. Far different from my childhood dreams. However, there are kids that just know. My oldest has only wanted to be a Vet (equine). Even now, as a HS junior, she searches the colleges looking for their requirements. She managed to get a job at a Vet clinic because she needs letters on recommendation to get into the VET programs. She is determined. She is fantastic with animals and it’s weired to say, but I think, based on what I know of my daughter that she is on the right tract. I’m just going with the flow. I make sure that my children are taking HS classes that will help them in college, where they will have to choose a major. It’s up to them where they go in life, but pushing a 14 to decide where they won’t to go is just wrong!

  20. It doesn’t really matter what they decide in highschool. Even after my daughter entered college she had options of changing her major, many times. You and your child need to relax and not make the teen years so stressful. Just take classes available for students preparing for college, let you daughter know that she is not locked in to anything.

  21. I am confused… my son goes to a public high school and they don’t declare their major until they go to college they just take courses to prepare for college… My son had decided that he wants to go ino Architecture and since he is a math wiz… he has been taking clases in Mathematics and Sciences (thisson loved Lego adn building things at an early age) and as I’ve found out with my oldest son (who when he was 8 decided he wanted to become a vet) then in college was undecided… he is now in Phd prog. for cellularbiolgy and will end up going to medical school ,after he gets Phd ,to become (gasp!) a veternarian( wants to do reasearch to develope drug to help cancer patients…. you just have to sit back and let them find their own path…. Funny they sometimes decide a an early age that they like something and strive to do it.

  22. My son is a 14 yrs old. As of Last week he told us he wanted to major in business. He had picked Engrng, Doctor, Scientist, Pharmacist, Accountant, and etc before. But everytime he picks a new course we talk about it, what his job gonna be when he study that course and which school is the best to go. As his parents, we don’t tell what course to get. Its his choice, what we always remind is to study well in high school, get a good grade to be able to be admitted to good university and remember to HAVE FUN as well. However, we help him choose what course to get in HIGH SCHOOL for him to meet the requirements for admission in college.

  23. My Daughter started an early collage high school and they were picking out what they wanted to do so that they can take classes towards that career. Even in normal high school here in North Carolina they have them pick which path to take collage, community collage, work right after high school which they all include things like business, Farming,things to go towards that goal that they are working towards.

  24. I think it is outrageous! These kids are barely starting high school not college. My sis lives in Germany and her kids go to a german school. Her oldest daughter had to pick her major in the 5th grade!! She had to decide her life path at the age of 10! Now that is crazy!

  25. My 14 year old can’t even make a decision about next week, much less the rest of his life. His is so excited about high school right now. I am happy for him to have the opportunity to experience many things offered and see if any reaches out and grabs him. He is very luckly to be going to a brand new school that has many, many opportunities. I feel these next 4 years are for him to get a feel for something, not be forced to choose one. I agree not many 14 year olds are prepared to make such a decision. They are just old enough to enjoy and have fun trying new things and hopefully finding a passion for something. Kids grow up too fast now anyway, let them play around and get a feel for growing up while we can still protect them a little. They will be gone too soon!

  26. My son is 13 and in the 8th gr. He will have to choose his major this year and it will determine which High School he goes to. It’s crazy! Some of the students pick whatever major their friends pick just to go to the same school and some students pick a major from the school with the best athletic program, not really caring about the major itself. They call it the “small schools program” between the 2 High School but I call it College and at 14 they’re too young for this kind of decision making.

  27. My freshman just had to pick his major at the end of 8th grade “so they knew what career path” to put him on. Utterly ridiculous if you ask me.

  28. Ami, Florida passed a law that requires ninth graders to choose a major. Once they do, half of the electives that they take will correspond with that major.

    Here in Miami, there are schools available for those students who know what career path they want to take. There are magnet high schools for students interested in architecture and design, music, law studies and subjects. Bbut now all the schools are being made into academys – allegedly to enable students to be prepared for their careers.
    The problem is that most kids don’t know what they want to do and many of those wonderful electives that allowed students to try new areas of interest are being shoved aside in favor of work related electives.

    I think kids should be allowed to be kids. They shouldn’t be forced into these important decisions at such a young age. My 14 year old wants to be a pilot but he is also a terrific writer. He shouldn’t have to make a choice between those two areas yet. He should have the opportunity to be in band if he wants to or take art or photography. Or even take PE all four years at school, not on the internet.

  29. Our school district is so full that children are told in 8th grade for their 9th grade orientation that they must carefully choose their course of study because there simply isn’t room for them to change their minds. For instance, my now 11th grader was sure he wanted to pursue culinary arts so for 2 years he took the necessary pre-requisites to prepare him for the block classes he could take as a junior and senior. By 10th grade he knew he despised the pre-requisites. He has now moved in with his father in a different state and is following a college bound curriculum. My now 9th grader wants to pursue child development courses. We’ll see how that goes! I appreciate that they have these options for kids who know what they want to do. I don’t appreciate the fact that their dreams can be totally set back if they feel at such a young age they do not want to follow through with something, but may not have the maturity or ability to do anything about it!

  30. My son entered 9th grade this year and had to choose a major. At first I thought this was crazy but now I can understand it. The student can change their major every year so they get to explore different areas and see what they are interested in. Not a bad choice now that I see it that way.

  31. I have a 16 yr old son that keeps going back and forth between law and medicine. I think it is good for them to know that there is more than one option available to them and that they can do whatever they want. it keeps their minds thinking and is a good way to have them do research on each field.

  32. My daughter is junior in high school. She has known since her freshman year what she wanted to do with her life.She wants to be a vet so we went to the University of Florida as they are the only one here that offers a vet program. We all learned alot & she now knows what she needs to do to get to where she wants to be. I advise going to local colleges & taking the tours they offer you will learn alot & you never know they just might figure out what they want to do when they grow up

  33. I have a 9th grader who just started a technical high school in another town. I’m really concerned with the content of the “regular” Math, Science, English etc versus what he would have had here in our own town. I believe its inferior to a college prep high school. He currently is very interested in an automotive career hence the move to this public high school. He’ll graduate from here with not only a diploma but certification enabling him to start an automotive career however my wish for him was to go on to a good 4 year college. I’m worried that if he changes his mind about attending this school and wants to come back to our local high school that he’ll be way behind his peers which will really mess up high school learning.

  34. My 16 year old daughter wants to be a translator. She decided long before she got to mid high she would try to get into West Point for her college. She is now a junior in High school with the same goals. She has taken Spanish 1&2, French 1 due to a scheduling error she did not get French 2. She has also learned some Japanese from one of her teachers. My 18 yr. old son still has no clue what he wants to do and he is a a senior this year! He know he will go into the Army but no idea what field he wants. He was accepted into a tech school class given to high school students around here for Graphic Animation Design and really likes this so MAYBE he has found his calling?? Kids need to make their own minds up and they need the experience life gives them to do this.

  35. I agree! When my son took his aptitude test and it told him he should be an animal trainer, we had a good laugh. He isn’t an animal lover at all. It is frustrating to watch a 14 yr. old try to decide his future when he has been exposed to so little in life. Kids can no longer be kids and the pressure is going to take its toll. I completely agree with academic focus but I feel that we are going to pay a high price for the pressure kids are under nowadays. They have a long road ahead of them and need to learn balance along the way!

  36. My child is also unsure. However some children determine at an earlier age and sometimes have an opportunity to change their mind if exposed to a field they are no longer interested in.

  37. Mr. Micah thought he knew what he wanted to do until he was 21. Right before he graduated, he realized he didn’t want to do computer science work. So he programmed for a summer and then started getting an MA in Philosophy. Now he’s almost done his PhD and is teaching part time. Loves it. 14-year-old him? Never would’ve thought of it…it was all one great philosophy professor who brought out this side of him.

  38. My son is 13 1/2. Since he was 5, has changed his life career at least a dozen (if not more). Right now, he wants to be a video game designer. I’ve encouraged him with every single decision he has ever made since his first choice (back when he was 5). I want him to know he does not have to have a set goal at this age. And that he can have more than one choice. I agree that at 14, is too young and way too much pressure. I am 32, and remember back when, I was told I HAD to choose a major. The guidance counselor INSISTED!!! You were considered a “slacker” if you didn’t choose. Where I grew up, the popular thing to choose (as a female) was nursing. I had chose that for a major, at 14, so the councelor would NOT embarrass me and call me a “slacker”. I had no desire to work in the medical field, I wanted to become an animator. I did end up going to an art college after high school but during high school (because I was kind of forced to choose “nursing”) I didn’t get any of the art background that I needed for college. So when I was in college, I had to take different classes than the ones who did have this background. I remember feeling very ‘stupid’. I don’t want this for my son.

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