Take time off after high school

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Every year, some students graduate high school, excited about the prospect of college while other graduates aren't excited but are going anyway.

Both groups of students often don't think about the mental transition that goes on during that period of life -- going from a teenager's mindset to an adult mindset. A lot of times it doesn't cross the minds of high school graduates that they might not be as interested as they thought they were in their intended majors.

Simply put, some students just are not ready for college. So, maybe some students just shouldn't go. Not ever, but at least take time -- maybe a semester, maybe a year, maybe two -- to "find yourself," as some like to say.

Now that I am going into my senior year of college, I have seen and learned a lot of things. But, in the back of my mind, especially during the most stressful periods, I always have wondered if I should have taken time off before starting, or during, college.

What most people don't tell you about college is that it can get highly stressful when you get the runaround, have to take midterms and finals, and deal with people saying you need to know where your life is going by the second semester of your freshman year.

The stress often causes students to leave college and never come back. Anyone who has been there can tell you that your graduating class is significantly smaller than your freshman class.

People leave every year for many different reasons, but I think taking time off can help to alleviate some of the problems you will face in college.

Going into college, I was very naive and immature. I was responsible in some respects, but there were some things that I just didn't realize were important.

In high school, I would do well for a while and coast the rest of the year. In college, that doesn't fly, or at least it didn't for me. College requires much more focus.

Another issue I had was I wasn't as vocal or outgoing as I should have been.

My school, Hampton University, is not particularly large, with about 5,400 undergraduate and 4,600 graduate students. However, you can easily get lost in the shuffle if you do not speak up.

At larger schools, you sometimes may seem like just a number, so it is crucial that you make sure you are on top of things.

I think taking time off after high school and getting a job are the most beneficial things students can do, whether they are confident or wavering. Having a regular job gives you a nice perspective about life.

Most of my summers, since I turned 14, have been spent working. My last job was at an elections board in New York State where I filed voter registration cards. It wasn't something that I like at all, but it was a paycheck. I met good people while I was there, but I also learned a few good lessons.

It quickly became apparent to me that I didn't want to make a career out of it. I did realize that I had a great opportunity to do something that I loved, which is to become a writer. I also learned interesting things about myself as far as what motivates me to be successful. Those were things that I didn't learn in a classroom.

A friend of mine left school after two years and got a job working at a clothing store. He moved up in the ranks of the store and eventually moved on to a more upscale job, which helped to boost his confidence. Now he has more of a go-getter mentality, and people who previously would try to intimidate him admire him. He's headed back to school this year to finish up and get his degree.

Young adults need to see the alternative to college before they attend. You need to know what life will be like when those four years are done and who you are and want to be as a person.

Everyone needs the experience that college provides as well as the education and the degree.

But everyone doesn't need it right away. It's much better to "find yourself" at home than to do it spending $28,000 per year.

Malik Smith, who was a summer intern at the Post-Gazette, is a senior at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., where he majors in broadcast journalism. He can be reached at localnews@post-gazette.com .


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