Nov 21
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

“I don’t know.”  As a student recruiter, I hear those words fairly often in response to my question “do you know what your plans are after high school?” Not knowing is completely understandable when I hear this from freshmen, sophomores, and even juniors. But when I hear it from a senior, sometimes it’s almost heartbreaking. 

I’ve met so many bright young people who have fantastic plans for their future, some involving the U of I, some not (and that’s OK). But there seems to be a growing number of seniors who don’t have any direction. They have no idea what life after high school will involve, and it is clear in many cases that they’re not getting the encouragement and advice they need.   

Over the years I’ve tried to develop at least one piece of advice and encouragement for each student, no matter what their interest is (or isn’t). You usually don’t have to drill down too deep to find out if they like science, math, people, working with their hands, technology, etc. If their interest fits well with our majors in ACES, we can have a great conversation about our potential career paths. But what if that’s not the case?

When I’m able to determine that students enjoy working with their hands, or that they want to pursue a more physical type of career, I tell them to check out the great trade school, community college, and tech school options we have in Illinois. But I also encourage them to take some business/management coursework, because as you get older, the physical work becomes more difficult (I can attest to that!). With training, maybe they could transition into a management role, or run their own shop. That’s may not be life-changing advice, but I at least want to give each student some encouragement to stretch themselves and reach for the best life they can.

I want to ask each of you to be an encourager of young people – any time you get the chance! We love to have advocates who promote the wonderful opportunity of pursuing a degree in ACES – believe me, your efforts are incredibly valuable to us! But please don’t ever pass on the chance to encourage young people who may not be a fit for our college and university. You may provide just the spark they need to set the wheels in motion on the way to a better life. You can do it!

You can do it