The following are my top 10 reflections and resources, from my time of Life Purpose Planning, for high school teens (and their families) who are preparing for life after graduation.
1.Seek guidance from the Lord most importantly, but also from parents, Pastor/church family, family, and friends.
Ask them what strengths, interests, gifts, and passions they see in you that might give insight into what you could do for your future work. ("Blind spots" are often seen as negative things that we don't see in ourselves, but young people can also have "blind spots" because they don't see how God has created them or what doors God has/is opening for them or how he has/is preparing them to serve him from past experiences.)
One leadership coach said two things: (1) where passion and need intersect is where God might be calling you to be and (2) ask people this question - "Time and money aside, what would you rather be doing and why?"
Consider what people group God is calling you to minister to like children, teens, adults, the elderly, homeless, business people, Christians, unsaved people, people in America, those overseas, etc. and consider ways to serve/meet a need with that people group.
2. Interview or intern with someone that is in the field that you are interested in to learn more. This will help you know if this is something that you could be in long term, or if there is something you didn't know about it that you really don't like and would want to get out of immediately!
3. Praise God for the opportunities that he has brought you through in the past, both good and bad. Good opportunities can provide insights into gifts and passions that God has given you that could be used for future ministry or occupational work. Bad experiences are not wasted. They could provide insight into things that God has not called you into, been an opportunity to develop character, comfort others in difficulties, or a learning opportunity.
4.Don't worry about going to college just to be like "everyone else". A lot of young people go to college because they think all of their friends are going, they don't want to look like a "failure", or they don't know what else to do with their life. Lack of direction or fear of man, though, can have serious consequences like thousands of dollars of college debt that keeps you from going forward in life with things you actually want to do (marry and have a family, serve in ministry, do an occupational job you enjoy versus what will pay off your college debt, etc.) so consider long term goals in your planning. Just because you don't go immediately to college when you graduate high school doesn't mean that you cannot attend later or that you won't be doing anything. If you don't have clear direction with what you are doing at college, wait upon the Lord to direct you to know if college is the right choice. Here are some alternative ideas.
Intern or apprentice in something that you think God might be calling you into or to learn a valuable life skill. Many employers are looking for people with work experience, not degrees, or people they can train for a specific job. Many people do not actually work in their degree field.
Serve the Lord in ministry, your community, or your family (or in preparation to serve your future family).
Start a business and be an entrepreneur; you don't have to have a business degree to be an entrepreneur!
Pursue a non-traditional program (or certificate program) that allows you to study a particular topic but isn't necessarily an accredited, degree granting institution (like Children's Ministry Institute), but you gain a valuable education (and sometimes you can still transfer/apply credit from these programs to your school of choice for an accredited degree).
A "gap-year" program that intentionally trains young people in-between high school and college (like Summit Semester or Impact360).
5. If you do decide to go to college or are thinking about getting a degree, consider ways to be a good steward of your time and money. There are many different programs and options that allow you to get a four year college degree in a shorter amount of time and for a cheaper cost. Many of these programs can be done while in high school which saves time down the road. These options include:
Duel Enrollment for high schoolers (there is normally a discount price for high schoolers who take college classes) or AP credit
Keep in mind that not all college credit will transfer between schools, or there may be limit of how much credit you can transfer. If you know which school you want to go to or what degree you want to get, it is important to see what their rules are so that you don't waste your credits by taking classes that won't apply towards your degree.
6. Assessments and planning are not your fate or destiny - Below in the Resource section are some resources for life purpose planning assessments. Just because you make certain plans that don't happen the way you thought, doesn't mean that you are a failure or made a bad plan. God looks for faithfulness in our life situations, not perfection. Often we get new information that changes our plan and sensitivity to God's direction is good and important! As you do assessments, evaluate and receive the good advice they give, and reject the information that is not helpful or not accurate. You don't have to be or do something just because an assessment said so.
7. Plan for life outside of college. A lot of young people only spend time planning and preparing for one career. But you are more than a money maker. One ministry divides our life up into five categories and we should seek to develop ourselves in all of them: person (spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, etc.), partner (marriage, business, co-worker, friend), parents (to our children and the younger generation around us), provider (could have more than one business opportunity or skill), and proclaimer (serving Christ and proclaiming His Word and message of salvation).
8. Never stop learning! As you get older, most education doesn't take place in the classroom. It takes place in the real world. While you might learn information in the classroom about a certain field, application comes outside the classroom, which is why experience is even more valuable than a piece of paper with your degree. When you gradate from high school (or college) that doesn't mean that you stop learning! Life is a learning process. Be intentional to educate yourself in areas of interest (or in areas you need to learn more in). Read, watch videos, listen to podcasts, go to conferences! Be reflective about your "life classrooms" (life situations) to learn from them for yourself and others. Be a life long learner!
9. Trust God. If you are seeking God, he will show you what the next step is for you to take. He might not reveal it all at once and you may have to wait, but he will answer. He gives good gifts to his children and desires to direct them in his way. Pray for faith to keep believing that he will answer, for attentiveness to see his answer, wisdom to understand it, and courage to obey. If you are a Christian, then any work (whether "secular" or sacred) should be done for his glory (1 Cor 10:31) and is a ministry unto the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 may be a good verse to meditate on during this time.
10. Parents, pray with your child and let God direct them. There is a song that says "Lord, keep me in your will so I don't get in your way." As parents, we don't want to get in the way of what God is doing in the lives of our children. We shouldn't want them to follow us and our wishes; we need to surrender our children to God and his plans. His ways are best.
Life Purpose Planning- Helps you evaluate your life's purpose and calling according to the way that God has designed you.
Career Direct - This assessment can help reveal things or confirm things about you and how God made you, in connection with what occupation might fit you best.
What You Do Best in the Body of Christ: Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, Personal Style, and God-Given Passionby Bruce L. Bugbee - Helps you to understand spiritual gifts and the book includes a spiritual gift assessment to help you know your spiritual gift(s) to help you know how God has equipped you to serve (whether in a "secular" or ministry opportunity).
Personality Assessment - Helps you to know how God created your personality and how that may interact with the career God has for you. This one is the DISC model.