College enrollments continue to fall – Top 5 reasons to consider life design curriculum to counter this disconcerting pandemic trend

If you are a parent, teacher or high school administrator concerned about the falling number of high school graduates attending college, you are not alone in seeking ways to motivate teens to pursue higher education. The Associated Press article – Jaded with education, more Americans are skipping college – captures the disconcerting trends and concerns. As tuition prices soar and student debt becomes an increasingly prevalent issue, many teenagers are turning away from college altogether in favor of joining the workforce right away. For many of them, the pandemic was a double whammy – their education on Zoom was not engaging and they found jobs that provided steady income.

Per the AP, “Nationwide, undergraduate college enrollment dropped 8% from 2019 to 2022, with declines even after returning to in-person classes, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.”

You may find yourself challenged with getting these teenage minds to understand the huge potential benefits of continuing their education beyond high school. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of five key reasons why incorporating life, career and college design education will be integral in helping students understand their options, explore different possibilities and make informed choices about their future. In order words: don’t let your teens miss out on exploring all they can become!

Mitigate/manage the financial burden of educational debt

Creating a plan to manage educational debt can be the key to financial success. Before taking out student loans, it’s important to understand exactly what type of loan is best for you, how much you need, and what you’re willing to pay back each month. Additionally, make sure to research as many scholarships and financial aid programs as possible, by filing a FAFSA form or planning a visit with the school’s financial aid officer for further advice. Community college can also be a great way to lessen the burden of educational debt; take the time to explore options within your community and talk to advisors about which credits may transfer. Lastly, consider alternative lending if you have already taken out loans but are struggling with repayment. There are countless tools available to help manage debt and create an effective life design that works both now and in the future.

Pandemic saw sharp drop on college enrollment

percent of recent high school graduates, ages 16-24, enrolled in college. Source – Associated Press.

Learn/teach life design skills that students believe prepares them for the real world

Learning the skills of life design helps teenagers create strong, meaningful futures for themselves. Rather than focusing only on college tuition and loans, life design encourages teens to think about – how they can find their purpose by connecting what they love and are good at with the world’s needs and what will pay them. Those are the four elements of the Japanese philosophy of Ikigai. Life design focuses on long-term thinking and planning, which better prepares them for lasting success in the real world. Through developing life design skills at a young age, students can develop an understanding of how to balance independence, creativity, and financial freedom while still finding future success. Life design skills help people navigate the unexpected possibilities and issues that come up throughout life – people skilled in life design are less anxious, less stressed, more creative, more productive, and happier.

Evaluating job opportunities and life aspiration with or without college degrees

Knowing what career path to choose can be tricky. It’s hard to explore what pathways will be available and what debt you’ll have to pay off. Although immediate compensation is important, it’s essential to also consider the long-term implications of any financial decision. That being said, it doesn’t make sense to take on a job that you don’t enjoy just because it pays a lot– life isn’t worth living if your work isn’t satisfying. Instead of being hyper-focused on immediate payment and security alone, taking advantage of opportunities to explore the unknown may lead to more valuable and meaningful experiences in the future. Taking time to evaluate your job prospects carefully while considering immediate vs long-term compensation, satisfaction, and optionality can help you find the right fit.

From the AP – “Fewer college graduates could worsen labor shortages in fields from health care to information technology. For those who forgo college, it usually means lower lifetime earnings — 75% less compared with those who get bachelor’s degrees, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. And when the economy sours, those without degrees are more likely to lose jobs.”

Mentors, passion projects, and communities of interest provide valuable experience

College is a great avenue to develop skills and knowledge, however, it is not the only path to success. Recognizing this reality, mentorship can help teenagers build experiences, passion projects can spark something worthwhile, and communities of interest can expand access for finding mentors as well as like-minded individuals who share a common cause. By carving out time for mentorship and hands-on experiences or following one’s passions by investing in them, teens may gain valuable experience that will guide them on their life journey before, during, and after college. This type of thoughtful exploration of pursuits, done in a proven and structured curriculum, will open doors that are just as meaningful as college without the debt – demonstrating that there can be immense value in continuously creating a person’s own individualized life design.

Build career mentor networks while in high school

Finding the right mentors and building career-oriented networks before graduating high school is paramount to teenage success. Teens should explore what’s out there and access beyond their known people for expert collaborators. Bigger, diverse opportunities exist with in-person and virtual approaches. Reaching out to professionals in different facets of a particular field can provide direction as well as first-hand understanding about what a dream career entails. With research, curiosity and dedication, teens can create powerful mentorships that facilitate insightful learning experiences to create a life design of their aspirations.

As we have seen, teenagers can prepare for both the short-term and long-term reality of job opportunities before making a decision about college. Debt can be mitigated with education, skill development, and good decision-making. Learning how to design a life that maximizes one’s passion, interests, and strengths — instead of purely focusing on building career skills — is a valuable approach for teens who naturally want to take their lives into their own hands. In these unusual times, the world needs young people who can think outside the box more than ever. Therefore, actively seeking out mentors and communities of interest is an integral part of creating a successful career path, so students should begin building their networks now.

It is our mission at to ensure every student has access to a personalized plan, meaningful mentoring, hands-on projects, and community so if you are interested in exploring this route please sign up for a free 1:1 consultation with our life design experts to learn more about how we motivate teens, guide them to find their direction and improve their college application outcomes and experiences. We believe in developing talent through personal growth and self-reliance— regardless of traditional academic or economical circumstances — and are committed to helping young adults create their life designs that become their personal success stories.

Joelle Kaufman<br>
Joelle Kaufman

Revenue Catalyst | Optimizes Everything in Go-To-Market (GTM)

How Ikigai can help teenagers find a purpose

Ikigai for teenagers

Ikigai. There’s no one way to properly describe what ikigai means; it’s a little bit of an emotion and a little bit of a state of being. But loosely translated, ikigai embodies the idea of happiness in living. It’s what drives you and wakes you up every morning with a sense of purpose. But it’s so much more than that too. 

What is the meaning of ikigai?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept, compounding two words: iki (生き) meaning life or alive and kai (甲斐), pronounced gai, meaning an effect, result, fruit, worth or use. To summarize, it’s something that gives a person a sense of purpose or a reason for living. On a much deeper level, it’s a self-reflection process. Knowing your ikigai means understanding yourself, your values and what serves you in the real world.

But why are we telling you about this? Well, ikigai can play an important role in defining your life as a teenager and potentially answering one of the most crucial questions that you inherently ask yourself: what is my purpose?

The good part is that you’re not alone. Many more young learners and teenagers like yourself are plagued by what to study next, what to do, will I do well as a dancer, doctor, scientist, engineer, artist, or any other passion you want to explore.

As a young learner, ikigai can shape your motives and help you find your true passion. It can even serve as a way of finding the ‘why’ behind your actions and make you wonder whether it’s something that brings you joy or not. There’s really no better way to truly know yourself than by asking all the right (or wrong) questions. In fact, several studies have found that following the path of ikigai not only gives people clarity in their vision but also provides long-term health benefits too!

Ikigai for teenagers

What is ikigai not?

Now that we know what ikigai is, it’s important to note that it’s not as simple as “following your passion”. A few simple factors differentiate ikigai from the latter: 

  • Ikigai is challenging. It involves a lot of perseverance and personal growth. 
  • Ikigai is a choice. You must feel responsible for your choice and journey.
  • Ikigai demands commitment. It’s a process that takes time and effort, and you won’t see a difference overnight.
  • Ikigai boosts your well-being. It encourages positive relationships and good health, leaving you with more energy to do what you really love.

How do I practice ikigai at a young age?

Life as a teenager can be filled with curveballs, full of emotions, excitement, impulsive decisions, and a lot of confusion. As a teenager, you are at the cusp in your life where you need to decide on a career, find a path, and so much more. It is at this stage that many end up blindly following unrealistic passions and wind up feeling discouraged when their dreams don’t materialize. Many others will resign themselves to careers that bring them money and status but no joy or fulfillment. The end goal of practicing ikigai as a teenager is to, as Mark Twain rightly said, ‘find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. 

Now, you must be wondering how you can make this happen? Here’s how. First, start your journey by asking yourself these five crucial questions:

  • What does my best day look like? (Your perfect day, which brings you happiness)
  • What’s keeping me stagnant? (Is it your insecurities, fear, or doubts?)
  • What comes easy for me? (When you feel that time has passed so quickly you didn’t even realize it) 
  • Who am I when alone? (Tap into your true inner self)
  • How can I help someone today? (Something you can offer another that also makes you happy) [Side note: An NPR research found that a teen’s self-esteem rises after volunteering or helping strangers] 

These questions might seem philosophical or too deep to answer but they’ll go a long way in helping you find your calling. This is because ikigai for teens addresses inner crises and gently nudges them towards their goals. Answering all the above questions will help lay a rock-solid foundation and guide you in finding your passion or career.

Can ikigai help me find a career path?

Yes! Ikigai can help you navigate not just your life decisions but your career as well. Here are a few things you can follow to help you along the way: 

Seek answers

Start by writing down these questions on a piece of paper and try to answer each one of them with as much honesty as possible:

  • What do you love to do?
  • What are you good at?
  • What does the world need?
  • What can you be rewarded for?

It’s good if you have all the answers, but it’s okay even if you don’t. Give yourself the time to think about them and answer them over time. 

Let’s take for example that you’re an artist who loves to tell stories. You’ll realize that you have many career options to choose from such as an illustrator, a writer, a painter, or a filmmaker. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way of finding purpose. There’s only your way. So, don’t be too quick to judge yourself. You can always add, remove, and modify your ikigai along the way.

It’s not a race against time

Ikigai is not about getting things right or becoming a millionaire. Instead, it’s about your personal growth and finding the right place for yourself in the scheme of things. Remember not to pressurize yourself along the way. But always be curious; it will take you a long way. With some trial and error, you will be able to uncover your purpose and passion.

Let your ikigai be the north star for you. And never forget, it is a process and it will take time.

Discover your ikigai with Power Club’s Real-World Learning

At Power Club, teenagers can immerse themselves in real-world experiences to explore their interests and passions, and discover what they truly want to do. We enable real-world learning with the power of challenges created by global experts.

You can get started by exploring challenges across domains like entrepreneurship, design, sustainability, and many more. Interact with industry experts and find like-minded global peers who share common interests.