By Mary Hager

“Do you know what you want to study in college? Do you know what you want to do with the rest of your life?”  As a teenager, you may already be on the receiving end of these questions from adults in your life. Although these questions are usually from well-meaning parents, teachers and counselors, they can feel overwhelming…even more so when your best friend has known exactly what they’ve wanted to do since they were five years old. Don’t worry! They are practical actions you can take to help you discover your interests and path during your teenage years.

  • Take high school classes that interest you. If you attend a high school with flexibility in its curriculum, taking elective classes that interest you may help introduce you to new interests. Many high schools offer classes in business, computer science, photography and sports medicine, to name a few. If you attend a high school that has a Career and Technical Education program, be sure to research the available classes, which can rage from Biomedical to welding to video production.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering for an organization/business is an invaluable way for you to understand the responsibilities of various professionals. For example, if you are interested in becoming a nurse, doctor or respiratory therapist, many communities offer teens the opportunity to volunteer at their local hospital. You will most likely need to complete any application to access this type of activity, but it may provide invaluable to you to either solidify your interest or help you realize you cannot stand the site of blood! In the event that you cannot volunteer for weeks or months at a time, ask to “shadow” someone for a day. That someone could be a parent, a friend’s parent or your neighbor. Check with your high school’s counseling office…they may also have contacts for you. Shadowing a professional for a day, whether it be with a mechanic or an orthodontist, can be very valuable in helping you understand your interests.
  • Join clubs and organizations. Most high schools offer you the opportunity to be a member of numerous clubs and organizations. Scan the list your high school has and join 2-3 you are interested in. As you attend the first couple of meetings, take note of your thoughts…is the subject of the club interesting to you? Are the actions the club is taking what you really want to be doing in your free time? If the answer is yes, then continue on. And in the event you cannot locate one club on your high school’s list that interests you, then start a club that does!
  • Research. If you find yourself in a place where you feel overwhelmed about all the possibilities, go to College Board’s Big Future site .This site contains a plethora of information about majors and careers…there is even a search function! Reading the details about various careers and exploring the multitude of majors can be a great starting point for you.

Lastly, remember that you don’t have to have your life completely planned out during your teenage years. What you do need to do is engage and actively make choices that work for you.


Mary Hager of Hager College Consulting has spent the last seven years helping high school students identify and apply to their “right fit” colleges. Prior to launching Hager College Consulting, Mary worked as a college counselor in Arizona’s highest performing charter schools. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from St Catherine University.