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Four Strategies To Make Post-High School Decisions Less Intimidating

Last updated February 15, 2024

Deciding what to do after high school is an important and exciting milestone! While some people may have a clear picture of what they want to do when they graduate, others may be undecided, and that’s totally okay! While it's normal to feel a bit overwhelmed about the options in front of you, there are some approaches and mindfulness tools to help decision-making feel less intimidating when you’re stuck.

Graduates and their loved ones walk in a grassy field - Four Strategies to Make Post-High School Decisions Less Intimidating

Plan for what you can and accept the rest

It can be easy to get caught in a cycle of overthinking or feeling anxious about committing to the “right” choice, especially when figuring out life after high school. Decision fatigue is the idea that after making many decisions, our ability to make even more decisions declines. Often, this added stress stems from a fear of uncertainty, failure, or regret. These feelings can be avoided or minimized by planning and mindfulness surrounding life after high school. Start by identifying the decision that needs to be made. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Have I talked to my family, friends, or school counselor to sort through my dreams or ideas?
  • Have I explored various information outlets about careers, education, or self-development?
  • Do I know what opportunities are available to me?
  • Have I figured out what I value or what’s important to me?
  • What gives me hesitance? What am I worried about?

It’s important not to spend time fixating on what you can’t control, and to embrace the reality that not everything planned will play out as expected. It's helpful to remember that you are never locked into one pathway; you can change your mind and your goals at any time! If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with too many decisions, step away from them for a moment and practice a mindfulness activity such as journaling your worries or meditating.

Define your goals and interests

Before you make or commit to any decision, consider what you want from your future. Research the different post-high school options so you are well informed about all facets of all your choices. Do you hope to enter the workforce and gain skills on the job, or do you want to go to college to prepare for a career? Writing out your specific goals and the things you’d like to accomplish after high school is a helpful way to avoid getting stuck in the decision-making process. Make a list of short-term and long-term goals to help you identify which pathways or opportunities align with your vision.

Having an idea of your interests and what is important to you can also make figuring out what to do after high school less intimidating. Do you have a clear picture of your current skills or talents and how you’d like to use them? Is being near your family important to you? Take the time to explore your needs and priorities. This will not only help you narrow down your decisions, but will help you feel at ease with the choices you ultimately make.

Weigh your options

Brainstorming the various pros and cons of the different directions you can go is a useful way to visualize how closely a path may suit your needs. If there are too many decisions to consider alone, talk things over with trusted mentors, family, or educators. It's okay to ask for help and advice if you need it!

Remember that career preparation and personal growth can happen in many different settings, so choose what's right for you. If you take the time to plan well, you are more likely to have an easier time making decisions you're at peace with.

Remember that there is not one “right” way to proceed

Different choices may have different trade-offs, but there is no one "right" way to proceed. Try to approach decision-making in small steps, tackling one decision at a time. Make the best choice possible based on your circumstances and knowledge, then make peace with your decisions, knowing you can always change your mind. Talk with your peers or recent graduates to gain different perspectives on how others made their choices and how their lives are going after high school. This is a great way to make connections and learn about additional resources.

Have any questions as you weigh your post-high school options? We're here to support! Text #Hello to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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