Now that you’re a teenager, people have probably stopped asking you what you want to be when you grow up and have started asking you much harder questions like “Are you going to college?” “Are you prepared to take the standardized tests you need for admission?” “What are you going to study?” “Have you thought about internships or trade schools?”
If all those questions make you want to scream and run away from getting more education, that’s normal. Your education and career choices are a big deal, but preparation can take the fear out of making those big decisions. So don’t run away just yet.
What to study is a major question for many teens. The young men and young women in the Chicago Illinois Stake spent two days at youth conference learning about different careers and options for their higher education. The stake also has a great mentoring program to help the youth succeed in school. It pairs high school students with qualified mentors. The program is part of the commitment the stake has made to improve educational opportunities for its youth.
Nikki McCurry, 17, has been in the mentoring program for a year and a half to try to be better qualified to go to college. “For me, it’s important to go to college,” she says. “I want to do something with my life.”
Through the help she got at the mentoring program, Nikki brought her grades up from Cs, Ds, and Fs to be on the B honor roll at her high school.
Vivian Alvarez, also 17, says, “I was doing horribly in my math classes. I wanted to improve myself.” And she did. She studied harder and participated in the mentoring program to get a good score on her standardized tests, and now she’s preparing to attend college in the fall. She encourages all youth to continue their training after high school, whether at a college, technical school, or other institution.
Eventually, Vivian wants to be the one giving the grades. At stake youth conference she attended a class that taught her what it’s like to be a teacher. She and the other youth attended other career orientation classes, including accounting, military, culinary, medicine, graphic design, law enforcement, and others. Professionals in these fields taught these classes and told the youth about their lines of work.
Helen Hitimana was glad she came to youth conference: “Before this, I never really thought about what I wanted to do with my life.” She and the other youth at the conference gained more focus on what they were interested in and how they could develop their talents and choose a profession.
When and How?
Elder L. Tom Perry, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has said, “It is never too early to determine the direction you want to prepare yourself for. Don’t wait until you register for college to decide what you want to study.” 1
Christian McConner-Hughes, 17, just got accepted to BYU–Idaho. He wants to study Japanese and become an interpreter. He’s been a part of the Chicago Illinois Stake’s mentoring program for a few months. A good student, Christian needed to catch up a little on his physics homework, so he signed up for the program right away.
Christian has also prepared for his future by attending seminary. Craig Nelson, who is responsible for the career counseling center at LDS Business College, says, “Seminary and institute provide a great rounding to your education that you can’t get any other way.”
Education in both spiritual and academic things is a great way to prepare for the future. You also need to be financially prepared. “You have to look realistically at how you are going to pay for your education,” says Brother Nelson. “The money does not appear magically.”
No preparation will ever appear magically, but careful planning and faith can carry you through your education and your career. President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “We encourage our youth in every country to get an education. Even if at times it seems hopeless. With determination and faith in the Lord, you will be blessed with success. It is a dream well worth pursuing.” 2
After you’ve decided what you want to do and you’re prepared to do it, it is important to find a school that will teach you the skills and knowledge you want to acquire. “Whether you go to a trade school or to another kind of school, the idea is to find the level of education that matches what you want in life,” says Brother Nelson. “When the opportunities present themselves, you want to be as skilled as you can to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Brother Nelson recommends visiting the institution you want to attend and getting a feel for it before you make a decision. If you can’t visit in person, many institutions have Web sites where you can find out more about them.
The Lord Himself has said, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).
The Church places great emphasis on getting an education. President Gordon B. Hinckley says, “Education is the key to opportunity.” 3 And Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, says, “Because of our sacred regard for each human intellect, we consider the obtaining of education to be a religious responsibility.” 4
You’ve probably already heard the saying that you can’t serve from an empty platter. The Lord expects us to be the best we can so we can help His children, bless and support our families, and build His kingdom.
So the next time someone asks you what your plans for the future are, running away is not an option. Follow the examples of these Chicago youth, and start preparing now for your future career.
“Our young women’s primary orientation toward motherhood is not inconsistent with their diligent pursuit of an education, even their efforts in courses of study that are vocationally related. …
“One of the most important purposes of a university education is to prepare men and women to be responsible and intelligent leaders and participants in the lives of their families, in their Church, and in their communities. That kind of education is needed by young men and young women alike.” —Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Women and Education,” Ensign, Mar. 1975, 56.
What Do You Want to Do?
Here are a few general questions you can ask yourself as you try to decide on your future career and education. Remember to let the Spirit guide you as you make these important decisions.
What are my interests and talents?
What do I really enjoy doing? (Or try a process of elimination. What don’t I want to do?)
What kind of person do I want to be?
What experiences have I enjoyed while completing my requirements for Duty to God or Personal Progress?
Am I giving myself opportunities to learn and experience new things?
Am I taking the right kinds of classes in high school?
Am I applying myself in school, or am I just getting by?
To learn a little more about education, read For the Strength of Youth