As I am writing this column, my junior year of college is winding down. College has been quite an adventure for me. After graduating from Lakeridge, I went to the University of Oregon for my freshman year, and then transferred to the University of North Carolina.

Looking at myself now and who I was four year ago as a junior in high school, I am a much different person. When you get out of your comfort zone, get put in an alien environment in a dorm full of people you have never met, take classes where your professor probably knows you by just an ID number, and with no (responsible) adult supervision, you learn a lot more about yourself and life in general.

So, I thought that I'd give some advice for the high school juniors who are probably thinking about what they are going to do after graduating.

My advice is a bit unorthodox, but it's based on what I have seen. In Lake Oswego, the community that I grew up in, going to a four-year school was basically just expected of you. People take PSATs before the SAT. People take PSAT prep courses before the PSAT, because scholarships could depends on it. People shell out money to counselors to figure out what school is best for them (I even went to one).

Looking back, I am honestly not so sure if this is a good thing. Getting an education is definitely important. But, I look around at some of my peers here, and many of them clearly have no idea why they are studying what they are studying, and probably not even why they are in school.

But, for whatever it's worth, they got into a top-ranked school.

I have met plenty of people in the apparently prestigious and highly ranked Kenan-Flagler Business School who cannot give a straight answer when you ask them what they want to do. Some actual responses that I have heard:

'I want to get a job!'

'I want to work with people!'

'I want to make money!'

Please. You can make money doing anything if you are good enough and care enough about it, and unless you are a hermit or just weird, I can't really think of a job that doesn't involve working with people. Don't you have goals or dreams?

Three of my friends here did not go straight into college, and you can tell that they are in school because they want to be. One was in the Army, one was in the Navy and another started at another school but took a few years off and worked. They are not in school just to party and not in school to end up with a meaningless degree because it is a subject that they really just don't care much about. Look around; it happens.

If you really know what you want to do, then by all means go for it. If not, maybe taking some time off to figure out what your goals and dreams are is not such a bad thing. Maybe travel somewhere. Get your party phase out of your system and don't have your GPA drop by a whole point like mine did after I transferred. Figure out what you want to study and why you want to be in school, and then go.

Alex Cook is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in economics and minoring in business administration and computer science, and graduated from Lakeridge High School in 2005.

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