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Advice from the Trenches

Advice from students who have been there! View their full interviews by clicking the profile shortcuts below.


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Name: William “Will” Akins

Age: 25

Hometown: Merrillville, IN

High School: Merrillville

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

A professional performer on Broadway. I assumed I would leave college and book a touring show around the country.

What are you studying/doing now?

I am a music educator and bartender. I am still in the field of music but not the same way I intended. I still perform and get just as much gratification, just not as much pay.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

While in college, I started working with students at my local high school as a substitute. I enjoyed helping keep the program I was in alive. I also had a history of coaching football, so I was no stranger to helping teach. Once I transferred to Indiana State, I started working with a group called Community School of the Arts. CSA gave creative, visual, and performing arts classes to youth in the Terra Haute area. I taught private voice, piano, and magic classes to name a few. My passion for helping others started to trump my desire to fulfill what seemed to be a selfish need to “be famous.” I had every pure intention to perform and didn’t care about the fame and fortune; I just saw it as the perfect way to spend my life. Now I was fulfilled watching others, especially younger kids, reach their goals and potential. By this time, I had switched to music ed as a major, mostly for job security, but now it started to seem like more of an obtainable goal. Once I graduated, I filled in for a good friend who was a middle school choral director, who was going on maternity leave. That experience was grounding and made the choice for me. I currently run a music and theatre program giving private lessons and hosting a home- school program.

I also serve as the Music Director of my church, which combines my passion for music and my love of religion. I work with the children of the church and the adults and I get the opportunity to play and arrange music weekly.

A few nights a week I bartend and that is just for the fun of meeting new people!

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

My first college was Vincennes University, and it was a great experience. I was not the most successful student in high school. I had a 2.4 GPA thanks to the encouragement of several teachers who saw more in me than I did in myself. Vincennes proved to really be the university I needed to make that transition from high school to college. I had several performing scholarships but no academic ones.  Vincennes is a junior college, but I got the feeling of going away to a “big school.”

I had also previously had the opportunity to work with Lisa Miller, the now former director of music at Vincennes, and I really enjoyed her teaching style. The university also had one of the biggest college theatrical venues in the state. I had to perform there. I do not regret the decision at all.

After my time at VU, I transferred to Indiana State University in Terre Haute. The transition also fully immersed me into a music ed degree program. Many students leave VU and go to ISU and many of my professors had connections to the music program. That made the move feel more comfortable.

If you’re working in your chosen field, what do you like about your job?

I love getting to inspire the folks I work with. Getting to be a constant support system to the kids around me is extremely rewarding.  Listening to kids grow as performers is gratifying as a coach and teacher to watch day in and day out students feel successful. I have also grown as a vocalist and pianist myself just by finding new ways to teach.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

Apply for EVERY scholarship or grant than you can. It takes nothing to write an essay about something you love. For performers there are hundreds of scholarships that are just a “perform and submit.” Ask your church, look online, join after-school clubs that interest you. Money is out there; you just have to go looking for it. Also, find local business professionals in your intended field and get close with them; they may know of places that provide aid.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty)

The best advice I can offer is never stop chasing your dreams. Your goals and aspirations are just as important to the world as they are to you. Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Network and meet people in the field you want to be in; you can never know too many people. I always say, “You cannot control what people think of you, but you can control what they see.” You control the narrative about you. You will have doubts but use them as inspiration to get to your goal. Let that fire and passion radiate into the things you do. And above all, never stop learning.

Every morning I tell myself, “I want to be the smartest person in any and every room I walk into today. The only way I can do that is never be the smartest person in any room.”

Never let your thirst for knowledge be quenched. Learn as much as you can as long as you can.


Name: Ally Bacon

Age: 22

Hometown: Fishers, Indiana

High School: Hamilton Southeastern (HSE)

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

Yes, throughout high school I wanted to become a dentist and even worked at my current dentist office for an entire year! I enjoyed taking science classes and felt that I excelled in this area of study more than my other classes.  While I was also interested in my high school business classes, I never saw my future working in a cubical or office space. 

What are you studying/doing now?

I will be graduating with an Apparel Merchandising major and a Business Marketing minor.  I actually went into college with a Biology major and a Chemistry minor, but quickly realized after my first semester at Indiana University that this major was not for me.  I made excellent grades, but it was evident to me that my heart just was not in it.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

I told my family that I wanted to switch majors immediately and not waste another second in my Biology major because ultimately, I just was not happy.  My mom, stepdad, and I started discussing alternative majors that I thought might interest me and one of the first suggestions that was thrown out there was something in fashion. I have always loved fashion trends, fashion companies, and having a unique style of my own. By the second semester of my freshman year, I was taking a completely new career path and had left behind what I had thought I wanted to be for the past 4 years. My career advisor told me 75% of students come into college thinking they want to be something, but by the first semester they are changing their majors.  

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

I am a Senior at Indiana University. I was attracted to the beautiful campus and town. I originally thought I wanted to go somewhere out of state because I wanted to see and learn in a new area, while making all new friends, but as the time got closer to make a decision, the thought of leaving my family killed me. My mom was an IU grad, and we spent a lot of time visiting IU and its campus; it felt familiar to me. While IU is still only an hour and a half drive from my hometown, it is still far enough away where I am able to have my space and freedom from my parents all while just being a drive away if I needed to go home.  I cannot imagine not spending my last 4 years at any other college because now I have found my home away from home.   

If you’re working in your chosen field, what do you like about your job?

Finding a job during a pandemic was not easy to say the least. I had many interviews prior to landing a Merchandising Internship for Women’s Leather goods for Coach in New York City.  This opportunity is completely aligned with where I want to build my ultimate fashion career.  I see this as my first step in that process.    

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

In all honestly, my parents planned and saved for my college expenses since I was a baby, thus the financial burden of college was thankfully something that I did not have to worry about.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty)

One of the best decisions I ever made during my time at IU was changing my major early after my first semester of freshman year. It is 100% acceptable to change your major in college—almost everyone I know did! Changing my major led me to some amazing opportunities, such as landing an internship in London, England, and then studying abroad in Milan, Italy, and traveling to New York City on a field seminar. My recommendation for any incoming Freshman would be to investigate and take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you. In addition, networking is absolutely key to success. Meet as many people as possible, engage, and learn about the industry that you chose to focus on.

Covid caused the cancelation of a summer fashion internship in New York City in the summer of 2020.  After feeling sorry for myself for one week, I decided that I needed to change my own path of opportunity.  With very little knowledge, I designed and launched my own clothing brand. I have learned and gained an abundance of knowledge in this process. This pushed me beyond my level of comfort, but I am extremely thankful for the multitude of opportunities that I now possess.  Without Covid, I would never have taken this leap of faith.  


Name: Jaylen Brown

Age: 21

Hometown: Vincennes

High School: Lincoln

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

I planned on going to business school and creating my own business.

What are you studying/doing now?

Social Work

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

I found my career after visiting the Career Center at Vincennes University. Someone working in the center helped me find a career aptitude test, which is how I decided on social work.

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

I went to Vincennes University and am now at the University of Southern Indiana.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

Apply for all the scholarships! Do not be afraid to stay home your first year and get your general classes out of the way at a local college before moving out.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty)

The best decision I made was staying home and attending VU my first year. I ended up having a preview of college and was so much more prepared than my peers at USI. Also, I saved so much money.


Name: André Hicks

Age: 20

Hometown: Evansville, IN

High School: Benjamin Bosse

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

I went through phases in high school. I wanted to be an Orthopedic Surgeon and then switched to Physician Assistant. I completed the Deaconess Health Science Institute over the summer prior to my senior year and really thought medicine was for me. However, when I got to college, I started my pre-reqs and actually did not enjoy them too much, along with realizing I couldn’t see myself doing medicine forever. Therefore, I changed my major at the end of my freshman year. Now I am studying Business Administration with a concentration in Small Business & Entrepreneurship, and I think that was the best thing for me. I enjoy my classes and I have made so many connections.

What are you studying/doing now?

I am a full-time sophomore at the University of Southern Indiana studying Business Administration with a concentration in Small Business & Entrepreneurship. When not in school, I work part time (24 hrs/wk) at Stifel-Ruder Investment Group as Client Services Associate and the goalkeeper coach for Bosse’s Men’s Varsity Soccer Team (going on my third year). I’m pretty busy, but I know it will be worth it in the long run.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

I still have not found a path—at least I do not think I have. However, I am looking into potentially getting my real estate license after college and also forming a business of some sort. My high school counselor has helped a ton—even after I graduated. My freshman year of college, she constantly made sure that I was applying for scholarships, asking how my grades were, and many other things.

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

I chose USI due to the fact that it was the most affordable and practical option. Staying at home for “Free 99” vs paying thousands of thousands to live in a dorm in the same city I live in was a no brainer.

If you’re working in your chosen field, what do you like about your job?

Right now, I am just trying this out. This is not my chosen field. Like I said, I’m just trying this out. However, I like being able to see how people invest their money and why advisors make certain moves on certain things. I think there is a ton of potential for me in this field (finance) if I were to stick with it.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

Honestly, if you do not have a 529 College Fund, I suggest that you work. Even working on the weekends or 4 hours after school is better than not working at all. Also, start to get familiar with investing. With the right advisor, you would be surprised at what your money can turn into. It’s better to use your money in the market (stock market) rather than just sitting in the bank doing nothing or getting a very small percentage back.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty)

  • LISTEN TO YOUR COUNSELOR! I graduated FULL IB (International Baccalaureate). This would not have been possible without my counselor my senior year. She helped me push through my senior year and I ended up graduating with a 3.9 and IB. From that, I received a lot of recognition and scholarships, which are truly a blessing.
  • Make time for yourself, everyone needs it.
  • DO NOT procrastinate; working ahead is your best bet, especially in college.
  • Find a hobby, it helps you take a break from school. My hobbies are cutting grass, working out, playing FIFA, and traveling.
  • Challenge yourself; take the hardest classes because it makes college 1000 times easier. From taking IB in high school, I was able to breeze through my freshman year for the most part; my IB classes were harder.
  • DO NOT wait until the last minute to change your major. Not all classes will transfer to another major, so do not stick with something you do not like until the last minute, because it will be a lengthy process to catch up and graduate on time (along with costing tons of money).
  • GET INVOLVED. I did just about everything in high school. Varsity Soccer, Varsity Baseball, Varsity Track & Field, International Club Vice President, National Honor Society, IB, Sports Editor of Yearbook, Teen Advisory Council (Youth Resources), Art Club, Fellowship of Christian Anybodies (FCA), Student Council, Unified Sports, Deaconess Health Science Institute

Name: Hannah Junod

Age: 23

Hometown: Vincennes, IN

High School: Lincoln

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

I decided on Elementary Education during my senior year of high school.

What are you studying/doing now?

I am a second grade teacher at Explore! Community School in Nashville, TN. It is a public charter school that focuses on project-based learning and works closely with its community in East Nashville.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

I always knew I wanted to work with children. Even though I was constantly hit with the “are you sure you want to be a teacher?” “Teachers don’t make a lot of money” “That is all you want to do?” Those comments made me want to become a teacher even more. I always thought “Why shouldn’t children have caring, smart, and passionate teachers like myself?” My parents always encouraged me to chase my dreams and become that teacher. I would not be where I am today without their constant support.

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

I chose Butler University for two reasons. My brother was two years ahead of me at Butler and opened my eyes to the amazing College of Education. I was able to meet with a professor and she told me how hands-on the College of Education was. Elementary Education majors spend seven out of eight semesters—up to 1,500 hours—learning in actual classrooms, working hands-on with diverse students in grades K–6.

If you’re working in your chosen field, what do you like about your job?

My favorite thing about my job is being able to help shape the youngest learners’ minds and hearts. Even the youngest of learners are able to do anything they put their mind to. I am lucky enough to be an advocate for my students when they can’t advocate for themselves.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

I would encourage students to look into all the scholarship resources out there. There are scholarships for all kinds of people and some even go unused. It never hurts to apply. Also, I know many people who take a gap year to save money and work while they decide on college/trade school. It is never too late to continue your education.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty)

The advice I would give to a junior or senior in high school is find something you are truly passionate about. Spend time before college shadowing a career that you would like to pursue. This is the best way to see if it is something you could enjoy doing in the future. I would also encourage you to surround yourself with peers in college that will make you a better student and learner. It is easy to get caught up in the workload of class assignments and easy to lose your passion for what you’re learning.

It is common to change majors during college. I think that is what is so great about the first year of college. You are able to see all of the different college majors and career paths out there. The first year of college will open your eyes to a new perspective on education and life.


Name: Jacqueline Kennedy

Age: 22

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

High School: Scecina Memorial

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t exactly sure what path to follow. And to be honest, I’m not sure I still know exactly what I want to do with my life. But, at the time of graduation, I wanted to work in the US Navy for a few years, then work as a biomedical engineer, and then get an MBA. I did not have full intentions of what I would do with my degrees at the time.

What are you studying/doing now?  

Though I initially pursued two of my three goals (US Navy and biomedical engineering) as soon as I finished high school by taking part in NROTC at Purdue, my mind quickly changed. Although I enjoyed the rigor and discipline of the military, I found that I was a homebody and could not bear the thought of being deployed. Thus, I closed the door on that opportunity and purely decided to study biomedical engineering. I just finished my B.S. in biomedical engineering a few months ago and now am pursuing my MBA while working as a validation engineer at a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Indiana.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

I had a heavy military family influence, and I think that’s what convinced me to at least try it out. But I found that in my heart I was meant to be at home near my family. This was one of the biggest changes from my plan. In fact, this was essentially a complete career change from serving in the US Navy. Besides removing the military from my original plan, I have mostly followed the other components of my original plan. I did graduate earlier than intended, but that was purely accidental.

In terms of finding my way, I have to say that I had so many influences and opinions around me that having time to myself to think and pray about my future truly guided me to where I am now.

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

I went to Purdue University for my undergraduate degree and still attend Purdue by way of their online MBA program. Choosing a school out of high school was a very difficult decision for me. I had three completely different options on my radar: Rose Hulman, Purdue, and US Naval Academy. I ultimately put out a survey to my closest friends and family asking their thoughts and opinions on where I should go. This overwhelmed me more. So, I decided to compromise as best I could. I made a weighted decision matrix and chose which school had the most to offer for me. Though I could participate at sports in one college, I could actually study biomedical engineering atanother, or I couldchoose a military-focusedroute. All of those seemed like traits that I wanted at the time, but it was difficult to narrow down where I wanted to make a sacrifice. I ultimately chose Purdue because, at the time, I liked that I could study the major I wanted, and I could participate in ROTC while only sacrificing participating in athletics. I did not realize this at the time, but Purdue really was the best fit for me. It gave me the chance to meet new people, to learn challenging material, and to focus on a realistic future for myself.

If you’re working in your chosen field, what do you like about your job?

I work as a validation engineer at Catalent Biologics, a pharmaceutical manufacturer. In college, I found that I enjoy working in labs but also doing work at a desk. I really enjoy that my job is a blend of a little lab work and a good amount of desk work. I also like interacting and working with others, which is absolutely necessary in this industry.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

I would recommend applying for as many scholarships as possible, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify. You never know what you might get. Also, have faith that you can and will pay off any loans as long as you work hard and pick a school with more reasonable tuition, such as a state school. I don’t think money should prevent someone from pursuing their dreams.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty)

Uncertainty is extremely prevalent as a young adult. It seems most people my age that I talk to are facing big decisions that will impact their future. But taking a deep breath, keeping your stress levels low, and learning to go with the flow will really help you enjoy life even if the circumstances are not ideal. There’s no need to dwell on the opportunities that haven’t come your way yet. It takes time to become established and to earn the opportunities that will let you live your dream.


Name: Ivan Lozano

Age: 21

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

High School: Scecina Memorial

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

Originally, I wanted to pursue something in law. I wanted to be an attorney, so going into college I was a criminal justice major but that did not last long.

What are you studying/doing now?

I decided to change my major to finance because I realized I wanted to pursue something that I was strong in, and I was very comfortable with analyzing numbers. I decided to switch my major, and it is definitely something that I am very happy with. I am also working part-time at Crew Carwash while I finish school.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

After I realized what my strengths were, numbers and finance, I decided to implement that into giving back to my community. Since I went to a Catholic school, I wanted to be able to give back to my community and what better way than becoming a financial advisor. It was something in my area of study and I would I also be giving back to my community by helping people navigate their finances. That is what led me to change from wanting to be an attorney to wanting to become a financial advisor. I had many professors with great advice on pursing something that would make me happy. I wanted to do something that would not feel like work.

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

I am in my senior year at the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. I wanted to go to a university that was close to home, and I also wanted to go to a school that was well-known. I decided I wanted to go to Kelley because it has a high standard in giving a great education to its students. I did not have the GPA nor the tests scores to get me direct admitted into Kelley, so I did not get in right away. Instead, I got in my junior year after maintaining a good GPA and having good grades.

If you’re working in your chosen field, what do you like about your job?

I have not yet begun working in my related field, but I have accepted a position for Amazon as an Area Manager. I am still working for Crew Carwash as a part-time member, and I have been there for a little bit over a year. I think Crew is a great place to work because they have flexibility in my schedule as well as have tuition reimbursement. The people I have met there have become great friends of mine.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

Apply for FAFSA every year to see how much they can help with. There are also many scholarship opportunities out there that can also help. Loans are also available to students who wish to go to college that help pay for things such as tuition, textbooks, and dorms.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty)

Join as many clubs as you can. They help you meet new people as well as expose you to different organizations. Take advantage of all the free services the university provides. Many places give student discounts, so don’t be afraid to ask! One piece of advice that I received at my freshman orientation that has stuck with me since was: Never think you are not good enough or smart enough. That has led so many people to drop out of college. Instead, try to have a positive mindset and reach out to professors or tutors when you need help.


Name: Lindsay Mergy

Age: 23

Hometown: Columbia City, Indiana

High School: Homeschooled

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

No, I really didn’t. I loved Literature, English, and many other liberal arts classes in school so I considered going into one of those, but I wasn’t sure what careers I would enjoy in any of those paths.

What are you studying/doing now?

I have been working full time for a software company in Fort Wayne for the last four years. I have worked in many different areas, from content entry to quality testing to building websites.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

I decided the only way to find out what work I enjoyed doing was to start crossing things off the list. I sat down and thought about every aspect of my day-to-day life that I liked or found relatively easy. Thisinvolved everything from hair styling to cooking to gardening to figuring out new features when myphone updated … the list goes on and on. Then, I found some people in my life who did some of thosethings for their career and asked if I could job shadow them. I asked a bunch of questions about whatthey enjoyed about their job, what was frustrating about it, if they got bored, etc. This helped me figureout where I might be interested too!

If you didn’t go to college, what did you do instead and why?

The financial side of college was the biggest thing that made me hesitant about getting a degree. I knew a lot of people end up in careers that aren’t related to their college degree, and it didn’t make sense to me to pay for four years of study in a field you don’t continue working in.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

Don’t be afraid to take it slow and forge your own path. Taking a gap year so that youcan work fulltime and build up some savings for school isn’t at all a bad thing, and your gut feeling aboutkeeping things affordable is a good mindset to have for life in general! If there are any alternativeoptions that get you where you want to go, even if they don’t come with a fancy title or piece of paper,that’s okay! What matters most is working hard until you decide you want to try something else. Then,work as hard as you can in that direction!

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty) That first jump is always the scariest. Even after years ofworking in this industry, taking risks isn’t any easier. A good skill to have is being able to weigh out thegood and bad sides of a decision and then decide, quickly. Understand the risk and reward, and if you still feel good about it, go for it! The worst thing you can do in life is never try and never know ‘what if’everything had turned out alright. The sooner you can try things and learn a lesson, even if the lesson is‘wow, I really don’t want to do that thing for a career,’ the better!


Name: Corynne Moody

Age: 20

Hometown: Noblesville, Indiana

High School: Noblesville

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

As many of my peers have experienced, I was exposed to the impact of mental health while in high school. I wanted to learn more how to combat the negative impacts and registered at IUPUI for the pre-med track to become a psychiatrist. Second semester I switched to Communication Studies and dropped out shortly after.

What are you studying/doing now?

I am teaching Software Development with a focus on Web Applications that are built with Javascript and React (a Javascript library) at Eleven Fifty Academy as an Instructor Trainee and constantly trying to learn more languages. At the moment, I am working on an app exclusively for the Trans community with my friend Alan Belmont, who is an openly non-binary Twitter and Tik-Tok influencer in the Indianapolis area. I have also been learning Python, which is an object-oriented coding language as opposed to Javascript, which is a scripting language.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

I started working at Eleven Fifty Academy in October 2019 as an Administrative Assistant after dropping out of college, moving back in with my parents, and having been unemployed for the 2 months prior. I was introduced to the company by a relative, who had graduated from the Web Development course. In December of 2019, I was convinced by a few of my colleagues, including instructors Ingeborg Slegers and Joshua Tucker at EFA, to try out the program myself. I started the 6-month-long part time course in February of 2020 and the rest is history! I immediately fell in love with coding and the world of tech, and after graduating in August I got a job with the same company as a Learning Assistant to continue to learn and help others to learn this really cool skill.

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

I went to IUPUI for one year. I went through the process—searching, applying, visiting—mostly because I felt like it was what was expected of me. I chose the school because it was financially feasible, I wouldn’t end up with tens of thousands of dollars of debt and it was close to home in case things went south. I didn’t have a great reason to go to college to begin with — it was simply that I felt like if I didn’t I would be a failure in the eyes of everyone. I’m here to tell you that is not true!

If you didn’t go to college, what did you do instead and why?

After I dropped out of college, I spent 4 months working as a part-time nanny, living back with my parents, with absolutely no clue where my life was going. I was let go from my job as a nanny with the family I was working with most often and decided it wasn’t worth staying with the company. I had no aspirations, no dreams, and no job. Then my mom mentioned a job posting for Eleven Fifty Academy, a part time administrative position, which is a role I played the previous summer at Girls Rock! Indianapolis. Luckily, I landed the job and have worked there since. Flash-forward to December of 2019 and I was learning HTML and CSS for the first time, then in January I started pre-work for the Web Development class, and in February I started this lovely journey. It’s not what I planned to do with my life, considering I failed the same math class twice in college, but I don’t think plans are worth anything. If you want to have a life worth living, you have to be willing to take risks. Apply for jobs that seem daunting and scary, because you can! The worst thing that happens is you get turned down, and you have experience for the next interview. Go to (virtual) events and network with potential employers. Get to know the industry you want to see yourself succeed in.

If you’re working in your chosen field, what do you like about your job?

I am an Instructor Trainee with Eleven Fifty Academy, and it is the most incredible and rewarding job I have ever had. My favorite part of the job is consistently seeing such immense growth in quite a short period of time. I also love it when students challenge me! I get paid to learn, and that is my childhood self’s dream! I get to come up with new ideas and make them real all the time. I think the best part about my chosen field, is that if I want an app that does something that no other app does, I get to make it and use it as soon as I do. I get to be the difference I want to see!

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

My best advice for you regarding college is to wait until you find something that truly interests you, and then find secondary education that fits your wants and needs. There is absolutely no reason to throw yourself into something you aren’t ready for. There are so many things you can do to prepare for secondary education and being in the workforce, even if you don’t feel ready to conquer that quite yet. Create a LinkedIn account, a resume, and if you can, get a job to get that experience! In the workforce, we call that networking. Joining the workforce is different than anything you may have done before, so all you can do is jump in and be the best you can be. On the other hand, if you are ready, do your research and ask for help! Traditional college is not the only option out there, like EFA there are many accelerated programs, apprenticeships, and trade schools you can go through. Plus, not all of them are going to leave you with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Get on LinkedIn and connect with people who are in the field you are going into, then you will be a friendly face once you graduate! Just keep in mind that life is hard, but no one knows what they are doing, so you might as well do whatever you want to do.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty) I think conceptualizing any sort of secondary school when you are still in high school is incredibly difficult, and that is why I am going to give you the secret to conquering it. College is teaching you to learn how to learn. It sounds silly, but due to the complexity of humans there is not one learning style for every person, there simply can’t be. It’s easier for some people than for others. I got diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 20 so, as you can imagine, it took me a little bit longer to figure that out, but it didn’t stop me from doing my best to educate myself. It fueled me to break stereotypes and to have an incredible career as a woman in STEM. It made me realize how brilliant my brain can be and how every person who ever told me ‘I couldn’t’ was just wrong. Sometimes I still battle with imposter syndrome—or the idea that I don’t belong in this space—and it sucks! However, when that happens, I look back on where I was a year ago and usually, that makes me feel a little better. You live, learn, grow—and time goes on. Love the past versions of yourself, accept the fact that you are going to be changing for the rest of your life, and use your experience to your advantage.


Name: Connor Mullett

Age: 24

Hometown: I am originally from San Diego, but I grew up in Westfield, IN

High School: Westfield

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?  Not at all, and I don’t believe that many people like me in high school have an idea either.

What are you studying/doing now?  I am a software engineer working at a blockchain research and development firm.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way? 

I found my path through a coding bootcamp called Eleven Fifty Academy in Fishers. I owe it to my dad for referring me to the school. At the time I was bouncing between food service jobs and didn’t have a good outlook on the future. I saw Eleven Fifty as an opportunity to kick start my career. I put all of my effort into learning and was working 12-14 hours a day doing everything I could to stay ahead and better myself. After graduating, I was hired on as a teacher at the school to further give the knowledge I received and pass it along to the next generation of students.

If you didn’t go to college, what did you do instead and why? 

At first, nothing. I was doing entry level jobs that didn’t require any skills. I was complacent with where I was at and felt that it was ok to just get by. I didn’t have any goals and definitely didn’t try to improve my situation. When I attended Eleven Fifty and it gave me an opportunity to get into an in-demand field, my mindset changed forever. I am always setting new goals. There’s always a new project to do. I’m always thinking about ways I can make more money by doing something new.

If you’re working in your chosen field, what do you like about your job? 

I love being in a field where my skills matter. My value to a company is what I know how to do. When I apply to a new position, I advertise myself and what I can provide for the company. I reassure the interviewer that hiring me is a win-win situation. When I do my job and write code for a company, I’m able to see the value being used. It shows me that a company needs people like me. It’s extremely rewarding and being able to see that has definitely helped me to stay motivated.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education? 

In today’s market, there are more options than just college. Many of today’s billionaires are dropouts. They didn’t get to where they are from college alone. They capitalized on their innovations and hard work. Apprenticeships will hire on immediately for great pay. You can be an elevator mechanic, a plumber, electrician, all of which are viable careers and are in demand. Buildings need elevators and they need to be maintained and houses need plumbing and electricity. These skills put you in a position to immediately jump into a career where your knowledge alone benefits your community and yourself. It’s a win-win. If you are on the route to college, you can’t sham around and just pass your classes. That degree for whatever field you go to is your experience. Many times I’ve seen people come into the job market with just a degree and no actual practical skills. Government resources are available outside of student loans. There are grants, scholarships, to limit the amount of loans one would have to take out. Build your network of people who have experience (such as parents, older friends, extended family) and ask what you can do. Someone else before you has had the same questions as you, and someone knows an answer. You just have to find it.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty) 

The biggest mistake I made was allowing myself to be complacent for so long. It took me a good amount of time to realize that the problems I had in my life were my own and I couldn’t blame something else for my shortcomings. I missed out on so many potential opportunities because it would have made me do more work than what I wanted to do. The best decision I’ve made was to correct my mindset and take control of my life and what I wanted to do. I didn’t have to go the extra mile and study nonstop while in class. I chose to because I knew what I could get out of it. Changing my mindset helped change my actions and I saw huge success immediately. Since Eleven Fifty, I’ve adopted two rules that I live by: Later always means never; and don’t find problems, find solutions. For the first rule, whenever you say you will do something later, you are essentially saying that you’ll never do it. People forget, sometimes unorganized, something else happens, etc. Seize control of your tasks. The second rule is all about mindset, saying you can’t do something is a problem. How are you going to solve that problem? What are you going to do to get over that hurdle? This ties back to the first rule because once you have that solution, you act on it. Don’t let it simmer. For example, if you want to be a trucker, what do you need to do to get there? Build your roadmap all the way down to what you are doing now. Don’t have a car? Start saving money. Bad at saving money? Build a budget. There’s always a solution, and it’s up to you to find it. Everyone has uncertainty. There are two types of people regarding handling the unknown: people who avoid it, and people who embrace it and accept that it’s there and it’s another hurdle to get over. The best way to handle and cope with uncertainty, is to build a network. Someone else had the same questions as you. Someone else is in the field you are trying to work in. Surround yourself with the people you want to be like and “pick their brain” as the saying goes. The best part about this network of connections, is someone always knows someone else who can help. Use these resources to learn. In the world of the internet, you can find invaluable information online. There is always a solution.


Name: Parker Noll

Age: 23

Hometown: Fort Wayne

High School: Bishop Dwenger

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

In high school I thought I was going to study Political Science in college with a focus in law. My hopes were to become a lawyer at that time.

What are you studying/doing now?

Right now, I have graduated from Wabash College with a BA in Religion. I am a first-year theology teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School.

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

In college, I took a wide variety of classes due to the liberal arts style that Wabash College had to offer. I took many different classes in different fields, and I had a very good experience with a professor in the Religion department. I took a lot of classes with him, and so I switched majors because I kept following my interest in religion. As time went on, I was looking for different career options within the field, and I thought about becoming a high school theology teacher. I looked into it and found out that the job had a lot of benefits. They would allow me to receive my Master’s in Theology in continuation of my life plan to receive my PHD in Theological Studies.

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

I went to Wabash because it offered an amazing education, a position on the baseball team, and a competitive atmosphere for me to grow in. I encountered Wabash because my father went there, and so I looked into the school. They had a lot of things I was looking for, like a big alumni base, small class sizes, and a brotherhood that I could belong to.

If you’re working in your chosen field, what do you like about your job?

I love my job because I get to teach the information that I love. I fell in love with theology at Wabash, and now I get to walk into the classroom every day and express the information that I enjoy. I get to express my passion to young students and hopefully be the reason that they take refuge in the material that I have been given. I want to try to give back to the world what that professor at Wabash gave to me: excitement about school.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

If you are having a tough time trying to pay for college, I have some advice. First, apply for scholarships and grants. This money is given to you, and you do not have to pay it back over time. Go online and do research to find the best scholarships and spend time trying to find some that you may be eligible for. Also, talk to your school guidance counselors for more information about where to find the best scholarships. Second, reach out to the college’s admissions team. They would be more than happy to walk you through different ways to pay for your education. Some campuses offer work-study programs where your paycheck goes straight into your tuition. This can knock off a few grand over a year. Try to cut costs wherever you can. Lastly, make loans the last option. A lot of people make mistakes and apply for loans right off the bat. Hold off on this, because you may be able to find some money stashed away in other areas. You will have to pay back loans—with interest!

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty)

Do not choose your college based on sports, other extracurricular activities or friends. You should always make your decision based on the education, price, and other amenities it has to offer. Your plans with extracurriculars could change, and because of that, you don’t want to have to transfer to a whole different school just because you went there to play a specific sport, etc. Also, be open-minded to a possible change in plans in your future. You never know where life may take you, but it is an adventure! Enjoy the ride!


Name: Ann Ramsey

Age: 20

Hometown: Indianapolis, IN

High School: Lawrence North

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

I originally wanted to double major in Psychology and Spanish.

What are you studying/doing now?

Social Studies Teaching (Secondary Education) with concentrations in Historical Perspectives and Psychology and a minor in Spanish

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

Right before the start of my first semester of college, I did a lot of thinking and decided to change my major. One of the things that helped me was talking to my high school teachers during my last semester of high school. I was able to gain insight into the value and reward of teaching. Another thing that helped me realize that I wanted to teach was attending a banquet for the Top 30 students of my graduating class. At this banquet, the Top 30 and their “honored educators” were acknowledged. Students wrote about their honored educator and the educator wrote about the student. I realized through this that teaching was something that benefited both the student and the educator. The educator had a profound impact on the student, but the student also impacted the educator. I realized that this was something I wanted, because I wanted to be able to leave my mark on the world; what better way to do this than influencing the generations to come. I think, deep down, I always wanted to be a teacher, but overlooked it because of the financial aspect. I realized, however, that if I am going to do something for a majority of my life, it should be something I like to do and am passionate about.

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

I am currently a Junior at Ball State University. I chose this school initially because it had the program I was going to pursue, and it fit my criteria of what I was looking for in a school. It also has a great teaching program, which was a huge bonus when I changed my major.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

My advice would be to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Even little scholarships can add up and help pay for things like books. It is also important to know that there are additional opportunities and resources available once you enter college, such as additional department scholarship and grants. Take it one year at a time and learn to budget properly.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty)

My biggest piece of advice is that there is a lot that is unknown about the future, and that is okay and normal. During high school and college, you are allowed to make mistakes, change your mind, and try new things. That is what this period of life is all about. Just because you commit to something, such as a major, does not mean you are locked into it indefinitely. Try as many different things as possible to truly find what you are passionate about and would enjoy doing as a career. There is a lot that is unknown about the future, but embrace it, and live in the moment because high school and college goes by faster than you think.


Name: Precious Townsend

Age: 21

Hometown: Kokomo, Indiana

High School: Kokomo

Did you have a career path in mind when you graduated from high school? If so, what was it?

Before I graduated I planned on moving to Indianapolis to study software engineering at IUPUI. Months before my graduation I realized that I did not want to study engineering. That was when I decided to attend Vincennes University for Health Information Management

What are you studying/doing now?

I study Homeland Security & Public Safety

How did you find your current path? What changed from your original plan? Who helped you find your way?

A friend and previous tour guide for Vincennes University was enrolled in the Homeland program. She talked very highly of the program curriculum and professors. I had always known that I wanted a career in the federal government. I just thought it would be through the health field. I was actually interested in a career working for the Food & Drug Administration. Long story short, my friend convinced me to schedule a meeting with the chairman of Homeland Security for VU. It was in the meeting that I discovered this was the RIGHT degree program for me!

If you went to college, where did you go and why/how did you choose your school?

To be completely honest, even having a plan of post high school graduation I was still very unsure of what I wanted to study. I chose Vincennes because it was far enough from home and I had the opportunity of gaining independence. Vincennes had plenty of opportunities for academic and personal growth.

What advice do you have for a high school junior or senior wondering how they will pay to continue their education?

GET EDUCATED ASAP! Do not wait last minute to try gain understanding of everything. It can be overwhelming junior/senior year. Ask your parents about your options and if they are willing to help pay for your higher education. Stay connected with local opportunities for scholarships and, if it fits in your summer plans, obtain a full or part-time job. This will help you later if you need to come home on school breaks to make money.

What general advice do you have for them? (biggest mistake you made, best decision you made, how did you/are you coping with uncertainty) I highly recommend getting a friend that is serious about their higher education, future, and goals. Friends like this will make sure you are held accountable for missing class, not doing homework, etc. They can also assist you with getting acclimated with campus life, faculty and staff. These experienced friends often understand other important things like your financial aid award letter, scholarship applications, and who to talk to on campus if you run into any problems. These friends will be your college-savers!