High school and its relevance in life
December 14, 2020
The vast majority of Americans spend the most developmentally important years of their life in high school. Growing up, American students typically hear it repeated that their actions and choices in high school will affect the rest of their lives, but to what extent does this apply? As it turns out, far more of the decisions made in high school matter and can decide the rest of one’s life than many may think. Not only do grades and behaviour dictate what college or university, but things such as friends and hobbies can influence how you develop later on.
“I think high school, in the long run, is pretty important. It can decide what kinds of jobs you can get based on whether or not you have a high school degree and can determine what career you can have if you go to college. Your career path in turn affects the rest of your life massively. I am not sure people really use their time wisely in their teen years, because time is such a finite thing and this time is in so many ways critical to determining aspects of your entire life,” NC junior Amelia Orr said.
Students can of course harm themselves down the line by falling short academically. Failure to perform well in school can bode negatively for your future by already limiting student’s choices of schools to further their education, jobs they can get and harming their future overall income. Studies have shown that a student’s GPA can even predict their future income, with students that have a 4.0 making upwards $50,000 or more, while those with a 2.5 or lower may not even break $40,000.
While certain students struggle with school, their best interest lies with seeing high school through. Dropping out of high school does the most damage to a student’s future. In 2018 alone more than two million people between the ages of 16 and 24 found themselves not enrolled in high school or college and possessed no form of highschool degree. These dropouts made up for five per cent of America’s student population and unfortunately will face countless problems in their lives that non-high school dropouts may never encounter.
High school dropouts face higher unemployment rates, and those with jobs quickly discover that they earn a lower wage than they would with a high school degree. On top of this, high school dropouts make up 75% of America’s state prison inmates and end up with a higher likelihood to require public assistance.
According to Erik Erikson’s stages of development, the events that occur between the ages of 12 and 18 determine whether or not you develop a full sense of self. Erikson named this stage Identity vs Confusion. During this stage teens subconsciously ask themselves “who am I?”, and if they do not find the answer to that question they will drift from job to job, relationship to relationship and will feel a continuous dissatisfaction and confusion toward their lives. In order to avoid this teens must explore their interests and make mistakes as well as experiment with their attitude towards life.
Music commonly becomes the base from which teens begin to discover themselves and their relationship with the world. For instance, the music listened to during high school forever shapes your taste in music. While someone may keep up with and enjoy new music, they have a bias towards what they listened to in their late teens and early twenties and have a harder time identifying with songs that come out afterwards. After high school, music tastes continue to form but at an exceedingly slower rate, and it becomes more and more unlikely that someone will discover a new artist, band or genre that would excite them nearly as much as what it may have in their teens.
“High school, in my opinion, is critical in your formative years for more reasons than just developing your basic education level or for entry into college. During high school social skills are taught, social standing is defined by the wealth or lack thereof and more importantly, most people start to realize who or what they are, their likes and dislikes, and personality traits. For me a big part of this was music. At my ripe old age of 45 certain songs will take me right back to my high school years, to people that I was friends with and even girls I dated at that time,” Marcel Minns said.
Music serves as just one aspect of your teen years that forever shapes your identity, however, and your social circle serves as another. After a student graduates high school they most likely will never find themselves in a similar environment ever again. Public schools offer a unique experience in which hundreds if not thousands of people find themselves in one location for no reasons other than age and where they live. Obviously, this provides students with experiences they couldn’t find anywhere else and offers them chances to get to know people they might never take a second look at otherwise.
The people students surround themselves within the four years of high school become a sort of goal post later on in life. As people grow older they tend to become dissatisfied with life and frequently compare their lives with those of their peers from decades ago. To an extreme extent, this comparison can lead to despair in Erikson’s final stage of development, Integrity vs Despair. This stage typically begins around 65 and ends with death. Here people reflect on their lives and come to one of two conclusions, they feel satisfied with the life they lived or they regret it. Those who regret their lives fall into a despair that does not end until death, and by comparing oneself to their old friends it becomes easier to discover regrets and ruin your self-esteem.
While students will eventually go their separate ways and discover that they now live drastically different from one another, it does not change how important of an effect they can have on one another in high school. During the teen years, these friends become guides for one another. High school serves as an extremely emotional experience for most people due to the fact that the brain becomes far more sensitive to new information. This leads to confusion and even fear for students, and this shared experience helps them to form friendships unlike any other they may develop before or later in life. Having a close group of friends provides a strong foundation for the rest of one’s life outside of high school as they all experience changes and challenges similar to one another. Not forming these quality relationships can result in detriment to long term mental and emotional health.
Without a doubt, high school serves an important role in our development as people. Choices made here both by oneself and others have effects that radiate throughout one’s entire life. Because of this, high school students and their families must make it their priority that they have a good experience and a healthy environment in which they can explore themselves. While grades and behaviour should of course take the forefront for a student’s concerns, they must not allow themselves to fall into the common trapping of caring too much. High school provides a unique experience the likes of which students most likely will never experience ever again. In order to make the most of this and ensure they have a foundation for a healthy future, teenagers need to form close healthy friendships and discover what kind of art they like as well as learn who they want to be. Parents and teachers must support this otherwise the pernicious effects may destroy their sense of self or even their life as a whole later on.