Pre-professional tracks may pressure students into prematurely deciding their future

in Opinion by

Every time a grown-up asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my wide eyes would gleam with anticipation at a sea of endless possibilities. 

From an astronaut to a dog fashion designer, my answer changed by the day. Yet possibility soon turned to indecision and, inevitably,  stress. And so, “I don’t know” became easier to say.

Come freshman year, advertisements for Heritage Pre-Professional Tracks showed up everywhere. Career experts designed these tracks to expose students to the real world, so they could learn more about their passion and eventually land the job of their dreams – it seemed like the perfect recipe for success.

I enjoyed the humanities (and I loved arguing), so Pre-Law seemed like the natural choice for me. For the first time, I had an answer for all those pesky grown-ups’ questions; I had my life figured out. 

But a year later, despite having enjoyed the introductory Business Law course I took, I decided to drop the track so I could experiment more. I joined Newspaper, and that’s why I’m writing this.

Our society – educational institutions along with family and friends – emphasizes the need to choose the “perfect” career path fairly early in life, often vilifying indecision by equating it to aimlessness. Just because someone does not have their whole life  figured out does not mean they lack motivation or goals.

Pre-Professional Tracks may have the unintended consequence of pushing a grade full of students, each with their own unique interests, into five or six different boxes. High school is a time to explore because students have their whole lives ahead of them still. Pigeonholing oneself into a track despite uncertainty can deprive one of the ability to try new things before making life-altering decisions. 

Even if students know what they want to do and it perfectly aligns with a track, high school is too early to take away the freedom to change your mind. If someone wants to pursue medicine, for example, he or she will be spending at least the next ten years studying medicine. Personally, I would value these four years of high school to try out different things before I devote myself to one subject.

Although incredibly rigorous and stressful, the tracks themselves offer fantastic opportunities and resources for those who are sure that they want to pursue a certain career. However, by almost completely taking up students’ elective spaces and their time outside of school, they do not offer much freedom for developing other interests. Each track has a corresponding society: a club with a points system to verify which students are in good standing. The strictness varies across the different programs.

Junior Liliana Shaw dropped a pre-professional track in her sophomore year. “I quit Pre-Law Track mostly because the points system was very strict and missing a Pre-Law Society meeting was never excused, which felt almost suffocating,” she said. “There was a lot of homework to the point where I would even have mental breakdowns because of it. Ultimately, I loved theater so much and there just wasn’t a way to do both, so I chose theater because it genuinely made me happier. If you have a busy life outside of school and can’t dedicate yourself to a track completely, it’s most likely not for you.” 

Changing your mind is okay. Not knowing what you want to do yet is okay, too. Dropping a track does not mean that you’re giving up. It’s often better to realize that it is not what you want to do sooner rather than later in life. Following a predetermined track rather than traveling your own path may not always be the best idea.

Pre-professional tracks may seem like the best choice for someone entering high school. However, it is not one-size-fits-all, and so making that decision about a career in high school may prove to be too early for some students. (Photo/PxHere)

Now a junior at American Heritage, Anya returns as co-Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the Patriot Post. With her passion for journalism, she is Co-Vice President of the Quill and Scroll Honor Society and President of the Current Events Club. As a Youth Ambassador for Bullets4Life, Anya advocates for gun control. She leads the student body as Co-President of SGA and competes nationally in Speech & Debate, Model UN, FBLA and Mock Trial. To relax, Anya hangs out with friends, swims, goes on walks and binge watches Netflix. She loves the beach, karaoke, good food and her lazy little dog Simba more than anything.