Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Development of the Self, Emerging Adulthood, Human Development, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: The fall term approaches and that means that many of you are gearing up to head back to college or to university. It also means that some of you are about to take the first step on your post-secondary developmental pathways. I have written a lot previously on issues related to the developmental shift to life after high school but there is always more than can be said and more, especially for new graduates, to consider as they move into the stage of Emerging Adulthood (see links below in Further Reading for some other posts of this, and related, topics).

I have often thought about whether there might be one key thing I could tell new high school graduates (and, by extension, new first year students) that would help them get their heads in the right place for what is coming. Now while one statement is never enough, try this on for size for a moment. Your school experience from kindergarten through grade 12 has been most often presented to you (by parents, teachers, principals etc.) as a sort of Easter egg hunt. Your educational task has been to keep your eyes open for the “eggs” of knowledge and insight that have been lying around you in your school and in the world and collect enough of them so that you could be said to have “learned enough” to graduate and move on. This concrete “knowledge is out there to be collected” view is very developmentally appropriate for elementary school children and somewhat developmentally appropriate for junior high school students, but it doesn’t fit perfectly in high school and is downright dangerous once you get past high school and head off to college, university, or out in the big, wide world. Why is this view of the world and your learning about, and within it, dangerous?

Well, in 1999 the US Department of Labor said that 65% of then grade-school children will end up in jobs that hadn’t yet been invented. Further, in 2017 the Institute for the Future (both references below in Further Reading) said that “85% of the jobs that today’s learners will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet”.  So, if your future jobs don’t exist yet, how could they be leaving ‘Knowledge eggs’ around for you to collect in order to get ready for them? Thinking about what that might mean to you marks your entry into the developmental stage of Emerging Adulthood and welcomes you to post-secondary life. What it means is that if you are going to college or to university it is important for you to understand how that it will be different there than high school and, as importantly, how YOU will be (or should be) different there than you were in high school.

You have a couple of options as to how you approach this next stage of your life. One option is to not think about it much and, as a consequence, have to deal with mounting uncertainty, stress and anxiety about what you are doing and how you will ever get it all done. If you want to try this first option on for size, go to the second link below (13 versatile ways to get the most out of your college years) and look through the 13 things you will have to be sure and do in order to maximize what you get out of your college/university experience. There ARE some good suggestions in that article BUT what it does NOT do is explain why you should be doing those things (a bit like being told to take your cod liver oil as a child because it is good for you). What is wrong with that is that it just extends your Easter egg hunt when, in fact, your developmental task has actually begun to shift from a knowledge/skill hunt to one of personal, life journey-planning and engagement. If you even just start to work at understanding THIS shift you will experience less anxiety (no it will not go away entirely) AND you will be closer to doing what you need to do to get ready for the future (your future) in which, among other things, it is very likely your job has not yet been invented. To get a feel for what this option involves read the first article linked below by Frank Bruni. Oh, and if your time is tight then just ready Frank’s article because it is the better option to take.

Source: How to Get the Most Out of College, Frank Bruni, The New York Times. And 13 versatile ways to get the most out of your college years, Kayla Matthews, The Blog, HuffPost.

Date: August 19, 2018


Article Links:  and

So, did you get a feel for the ‘whys’ of what you should do at college or university from Frank Bruni’s article? While Frank is not an academic researcher he HAS gathered data and has reflected on what it suggests about the current state of the world and of life for folks like you who are heading off onto your post-secondary developmental pathways. As well, if you check out a few of the links below in Further Reading to other posts on this blog you will see that Frank’s article and his suggestions and explanations, fit nicely with a lot of the developmental research that has been conducted recently in Emerging Adulthood and identity development. So, the option you decide to pursue in your post-secondary life is up to you and really that is very true because how it goes IS up to you (to decide, to make happen and to live and to, hopefully, enjoy).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In what ways might we think of K to 12 school as an Easter egg hunt?
  2. What options are available to you for starting to walk along your post-secondary developmental path?
  3. If your future jobs have not been invented yet how should you approach university?

References (Read Further):

U.S. Department of Labor, Futurework: Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century. (September 1999)

Institute for the Future (2017) The next era of human/machine partnerships: Emerging technologies’ impact on society and work in 2030. IFTF, Palo Alto, CA.

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