top of page

My Mom Wants This, But I Want That: A High School Survival Guide

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

I, Dr. Muhammad, am providing FREE advice on what every parent and student should know to succeed in high school. My book will be released on September 1st! Until then, please enjoy all the advice for free.

Some of the topics you can ask me about include: To ask your question, click here.

A few more topics you can ask me about for a limited time and that are covered in the book:

  • Early Career Indicators and Presumptions

  • Of Course the Money Matters!

  • No Time for Bickering with Parental/Guardian Stakeholders

  • 12-month emergency timeline for high school seniors

  • Timeline for Grades 8-12

  • I'm Taking a Gap Year

  • Cell Phone Addictions

  • STEM Fields Versus Liberal Arts

  • A Word about Standardized Tests

  • Decisions about Course Types (Dual Enrollment v.s. Advanced Placement)

  • Straight to the Workforce from High School

  • I want to go Virtual

  • It's My Mom's Dreams, Not Mine.

  • I Know How to Manipulate My Parents

  • Student-Athletes Need to Hear This

  • 30 Essential Tips for Finding Scholarships

  • College, Scholarship, and Career Planning Tools

  • College and Career Interest Inventories

  • Careers with Strong Growth Based on a 5-10 Year Forecast

  • 20 of the highest-paid medical doctor fields and their areas of expertise

  • All about Engineers

  • If I Can't Play Ball in College, I'm Not Going

  • “My Parents Want This, but I Want That.”

  • My Mom Stole My College Fund Money

  • I'm Following My Girlfriend to College

  • I want to be an ASTRONAUT

  • My Teacher Doesn't Like Me

  • For the Introverted Students

"I give real advice for real situations. Can I help you with an education-based question? "

Ask a veteran educator with over 25 years in grades K-12, the last 20 at the high school level, and the last five as a college counselor for students with diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.

"My Mom Wants This, But I Want That" is a guide to help parents and students navigate through high school and develop postsecondary plans. It is useful to parents who need to understand how to help their scholars be successful, even when they may butt heads on what is best for the student.

Excerpt from Chapter 5: Straight into the Workforce

Chapter 5: Straight to the Workforce from High School

Some high school graduates choose, and are sometimes forced to dive into the workforce instead of taking the traditional college route. All races of students who skip training after high school, especially those who fall within lower socioeconomic brackets may need to brace themselves for waves of limited pay, unequal opportunities, and the occasional shipwreck. And with the new Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) affirmative action higher educational ban ruling, even more will set sail to uncertainty. I say to students with no definite plans, yet end up going straight into the workforce, hold on to your life jackets because it’s a doggy-dog peddling world out there!

Of course you can go straight into the workforce right after high school. College is not for everyone, and some students need a gap year to work before heading to college. In addition, there are many jobs that would support one's decision to go straight to work. In this chapter, a list of several reasons why it would be practical for some students to head straight into the workforce is provided. Before I list the advantages and disadvantages of high school to the workforce, let’s keep it 100 and have a real conversation about this. It should be by design and not by circumstance that one would go right into the workforce. You may be aware that the Supreme Court of the United States just reached a ruling that has dismantled affirmative action acceptance into colleges and universities. It is highly likely that a relationship between that decision and rejected college admission will disparagingly present itself.

Diversity and Disparities: A Topsy-Turvy World:

In our ideal world, opportunities would rain down on everyone equally, like a shower of gold coins. However, the reality is more like a torrential downpour that conveniently skips over certain groups. African American high school graduates often find themselves under the cloudiest skies, with limited access to well-paying jobs and career advancements. It's as if someone handed them an umbrella full of holes. How thoughtful!

Picture this: a student fresh out of high school, bright-eyed, and brimming with ambition and dreams ventures into the uncharted territory of going straight into the workforce. Others are scared, depressed, or even being asked to leave their homes once they turn 18 or graduate, whichever comes first. They choose or are forced by circumstances to bypass the traditional college route and enter the workforce straight away. Nonetheless, they are headed to conquer the world armed with their diploma or less. They enter the workforce with enthusiasm, only to find themselves adrift in a sea of limited pay. The sad truth is, Black American high school graduates often face lower starting salaries compared to their college-educated counterparts of other races. It's like being handed a paper boat while others are gifted yachts. This is not always due to race alone, but rather adverse living situations that disproportionately plague minorities in the United States. Fair winds and following seas, huh?

The Career Ladder

Ah, the career ladder – a rickety construction where hard work and talent should lead to glorious promotions- often seems to be coated in an invisible layer of grease. Climbing becomes an uphill battle, filled with slippery discrimination, biased hiring practices, and the occasional broken rung. It's almost like trying to ascend Mount Everest with a pair of flippers. Good luck with that!

While it's true that some jobs can support going straight into the workforce, it often becomes a reality for those who find themselves unprepared or trapped in low-paying dead-end jobs. Sometimes, the allure of fast food employment lures them in, and they unwittingly embark on a spiraling trip towards financial hardship. The McStruggle is real!

Lack of Planning: A Rocky Shoreline:

Aside from the Scotus’ decision that could adversely impact collegiate acceptance for minorities, another reason a student may opt for the workforce straight out of high school is a lack of planning. It's as if they suddenly wake up in a romantic movie, complete with a set of children, a newfound love, and a mortgage to pay. But let's face it, not everyone is cut out for college, and some may need a gap year to work and figure things out. However, going into the workforce without any particular skills or training beyond high school poses challenges when it comes to securing stable employment. It's like searching for a needle in a haystack, blindfolded. I always mention exceptions in this rapidly changing digital and social media world where students can become rock stars overnight as long as they know how to leverage social media accounts to bring in revenue. This area is a new financial opportunity for Gen Z, regardless of stability in it over time.

The Sinking Ship: Lifetime Earnings Disparities:

These disparities in pay and opportunities can lead to a lifetime of financial struggles for African American high school graduates. Over the course of their careers, the wage gap expands into a vast ocean of lost earnings, making it harder to stay afloat financially. It's like trying to bail water out of a sinking ship with a thimble. Sisyphean, isn't it?

Socioeconomic Background: A Charting Tool:

To truly understand the disparities at play, we must consider the socioeconomic backgrounds of those going straight into the workforce. Are they first-generation college students? What is their potential for growth in their chosen field? If we find disparities among socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals or those without a clear plan for upward mobility, well, Houston, we have a problem.


It’s essential to acknowledge the disparities faced by African American high school graduates who choose or somehow end up diving straight into the workforce. Limited pay, lack of planning, and the socioeconomic factors at play all contribute to a bumpy ride.

Ten (10) Potential Advantages of Entering the Workforce Straight Away

Here are 10 potential advantages of entering the workforce directly after graduating from high school:

  1. Immediate income: By entering the workforce, you can start earning money right away and become financially independent. This can be particularly beneficial if you have financial responsibilities or wish to save for future endeavors.

  2. Practical experience: Work experience provides practical skills and knowledge that can be valuable in the job market. You'll gain hands-on experience and learn how to navigate real-world work environments.

  3. Early career advancement: Starting your career early means you have more time to gain experience, build a strong professional network, and potentially advance faster than if you pursued higher education first.

  4. Avoid student debt: Choosing not to pursue higher education immediately after high school allows you to avoid student loans or other financial burdens associated with obtaining a college degree.

  5. Networking opportunities: Entering the workforce exposes you to a diverse range of professionals who can serve as valuable connections, mentors, or references in the future. Building a strong professional network early on can open doors to new opportunities.

  6. Entrepreneurial opportunities: With more time and freedom, you can explore entrepreneurial endeavors or start your own business. This can provide independence, flexibility, and the chance to pursue your own vision.

  7. Immediate contribution: By joining the workforce, you can make a direct impact and contribute to the economy, your company, or your community. This can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

  8. Personal growth: Work experiences often challenge you to develop crucial skills such as time management, problem-solving, and communication. These skills can contribute to personal growth and self-confidence.

  9. Flexibility in career exploration: Rather than committing to a specific field of study right after high school, entering the workforce allows you to explore different career paths and industries. You can gain insight into your interests and strengths before making long-term commitments.

  10. Potential for advancement without a degree: Many industries value practical experience and skills over formal education. By starting your career early, you may find opportunities for advancement based on merit and experience rather than relying solely on academic qualifications.

It's important to note that the decision to enter the workforce immediately after high school or pursue higher education should be based on individual circumstances, goals, and aspirations. Both paths have their own advantages and it's crucial to consider your personal interests, career goals, and long-term plans.

Fifteen (15) Potential Disadvantages For Enter the Workforce Straight Away

Here are 15 potential disadvantages for students who enter the workforce directly after high school without any additional training or certificates:

  1. Limited job opportunities: Without specialized training or higher education, your job options may be limited. Many professions require specific qualifications or certifications beyond a high school diploma.

  2. Lower earning potential: On average, individuals with a higher level of education tend to earn more over their lifetimes compared to those with only a high school diploma. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, the median weekly earnings for someone with a bachelor's degree were $1,305, compared to $746 for someone with only a high school diploma.

  3. Lack of career mobility: Advancement opportunities may be limited without further education or training. Higher-level positions often require specialized knowledge or qualifications that a high school diploma alone may not fulfill.

  4. Higher unemployment rates: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of June 2021, the unemployment rate for individuals with only a high school diploma was 5.8%, compared to 3.1% for those with a bachelor's degree or higher. This indicates that individuals without additional education may face higher unemployment rates.

  5. Limited job security: In a rapidly changing job market, industries and job roles can become obsolete or automated. Without further education or training, it may be more challenging to adapt to changing job market demands.

  6. Difficulty in competing with higher-educated candidates: When applying for jobs, individuals with higher levels of education or specialized training may have a competitive edge over those with only a high school diploma. This can make it more challenging to secure desirable positions.

  7. Limited access to professional networks: Higher education often provides opportunities to connect with professionals, professors, and alumni who can offer valuable networking connections. Without these networks, finding mentors or job referrals may be more challenging.

  8. Reduced job benefits: Individuals with only a high school diploma may have limited access to job benefits such as healthcare coverage, retirement plans, or paid leave. Higher education can often lead to better job benefits.

  9. Limited personal growth opportunities: Higher education offers a broader range of academic and personal growth experiences, such as exposure to different perspectives, critical thinking skills, and personal development opportunities. Without pursuing further education, individuals may miss out on these experiences.

  10. Difficulty changing career paths: If you enter the workforce without additional training or education, changing career paths later on may be more challenging. Certain industries may require specific qualifications or credentials that you lack.

  11. Impact on future promotions and raises: Without specialized training or certifications, you may be overlooked for promotions or salary raises compared to colleagues with higher levels of education or additional qualifications.

  12. Increased risk of job dissatisfaction: Limited job options and the potential for being stuck in low-paying or unsatisfying positions can contribute to job dissatisfaction. This can negatively impact overall well-being and motivation.

  13. Reduced job stability during economic downturns: During economic recessions or downturns, individuals with higher levels of education tend to experience lower unemployment rates and have a better chance of job security compared to those with only a high school diploma.

  14. Difficulty pursuing certain professions: Some professions, such as medicine, law, engineering, or teaching, require higher education and specialized training. Without pursuing these educational pathways, you may not be eligible for those careers.

  15. Missed personal and intellectual development: Higher education provides opportunities for personal growth, critical thinking, and exposure to a variety of subjects and perspectives. Without pursuing further education, you may miss out on these intellectual and personal development experiences.

It's important to note that these disadvantages are not absolute, and individual circumstances may vary. Some individuals can find success and fulfillment in their careers without pursuing higher education. However, it's essential to consider the potential challenges and limitations that may arise from entering the workforce directly after high school without additional training or certifications.

"My Mom Wants This, But I Want That" is a guide to help parents and students navigate through high school and develop postsecondary plans. It is useful to parents who need to understand how to help their scholars be successful, even when they may butt heads on what is best for the student.

How to Take Advantage of College and Career Services

I want to talk to you about something super important: your future college and career aspirations. Did you know that most high schools have a college and career center or a college counselor? These are amazing resources that you absolutely need to take advantage of. In order to do so, students should Be present and be intentional.

True story: During an event for juniors in the College and Career Center one week, I met a lively young lady who asked a lot of questions and gave plenty of answers. I had never seen her before -or so I thought. Actually, I had passed her probably 3-4 times every single school day, but I never saw her. With almost two thousand students in the building, I see students in the local markets and do not always recognize them, especially if we never personally interacted. So, anyway, I always get random opportunities by emails, etc. for students, and sometimes, they come at the last minute and I am asked to select a few students. This is not easy. Sometimes, I have to run a current roster that matches certain demographics, Grade point averages, personalities and interests. Then, I have to interview my pool to determine the best fit. Other times, I am able to think of the best fitted student right off the top of my head. You guessed it: I can do so more readily if I actually know the student. Just by interacting with me casually, this particular young lady made it to my memory bank. In the alternative, I visit classrooms a lot, yet it is hard to match names with faces. That is, unless the student participates or volunteers to speak. Students who extend themselves, offer their services, or volunteer to answer questions can become more memorable to teachers and counselors in some aspect.

Well, what about the shy, quiet introvert? I often meet parents who know their student is shy, and so they attempt to intervene on behalf of their student. In other words, they go ahead and make the introductions as a parent to increase the likelihood that their scholar stands out.

That is one way to tackle it, but here is another more personable way. Read More

Why Adults Should not Ask Invasive Questions (Excerpt from Chapter 2 of "My Mom Wants This, But I Want That: High School Survival Guide

Lighten Up, Adults! Let's Support, Not Stress, High School Students

Introduction: Hey there, grown-ups! As a professional high school counselor with a penchant for humor, I'm here to shed some light on a topic that might make you raise an eyebrow. You see, we need to ease up on bombarding high school students with questions about their future careers. I know, I know, it seems harmless, but trust me, it's time to adopt a more supportive and lighthearted approach. So, grab your laughter goggles and let's explore why we should give those career inquiries a much-needed break. As high school students navigate their educational journey, they often face a barrage of questions from well-meaning adults about their future career plans. While it may seem harmless, constantly asking students what they want to be when they grow up can have unintended negative consequences. This blog explores the reasons why adults should refrain from pressuring students into providing precise answers about their future, and instead adopt a more supportive and open-minded approach

Unrealistic Expectations and the Inferiority Complex: Imagine assuming that every student will pursue a four-year degree and conquer the world. It sounds like a fairytale, right? Well, it's time to ditch those unrealistic expectations. By assuming a one-size-fits-all approach, we unintentionally make students feel inadequate or inferior if their dreams don't align with our societal norms. Let's celebrate diversity and acknowledge that there are countless paths to success. When adults assume that all students will attend college and pursue specific career paths, they inadvertently create unrealistic expectations. Some students may not have the aptitude or desire to pursue a four-year degree, and when adults make assumptions, it can make them feel inadequate or inferior. It's important to acknowledge that there are diverse paths to success and to avoid projecting societal norms onto students who may have different aspirations.

Decision-Making with a Side of Panic: Ah, high school—the land of self-discovery and exploration. Students are still figuring out their likes and dislikes, passions and pet peeves. Bombarding them with future-focused questions only adds fuel to the anxiety fire. They're not fortune-tellers! Let's give them the time and space to make informed decisions without pushing them into hasty choices or worse, making up answers to please us. Trust me, nobody wants a world full of reluctant astrophysicists. Many high school students are still in the process of discovering their interests and passions. They may not have a clear idea of what they want to do after graduation, and that is perfectly normal. Bombarding them with questions about their future only adds to their anxiety and may push them into making hasty decisions or providing false answers to please others. It's crucial to give students the time and space to explore their options and make informed decisions based on their own interests and abilities.

Authenticity over Approval: Picture this: We ask a student about their future plans, and they scramble to give a response that sounds impressive or socially acceptable. It's like watching a poorly scripted movie. We're promoting conformity over authenticity! Instead, let's encourage genuine self-discovery and growth. It's time to ditch the pressure to please others and foster an environment that celebrates each student's unique journey.

The Emotional Rollercoaster: High school is already a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Adding pressure about future careers can turn it into a wild, nausea-inducing loop-de-loop. Students feel embarrassed, anxious, and inadequate if they haven't figured it all out yet. Let's be the support system they need, creating an environment that nurtures their self-esteem, mental well-being, and academic performance. Laughter and acceptance go a long way! High school can be a time of intense pressure and stress for students. When asked about their future plans in front of friends and family, students may experience feelings of embarrassment, inadequacy, or anxiety if they haven't yet figured out their career path. This unnecessary pressure can have a detrimental effect on their self-esteem, mental well-being, and overall academic performance. It's important for adults to create a supportive and non-judgmental environment that encourages open discussions without imposing expectations.

Empowering Conversations: Now, for the fun part! Instead of cornering students with career questions, let's adopt an empowering and supportive stance. Embrace the art of open-ended questions like, "What interests have you been exploring?" or "How can I assist you in planning your post-high school adventure?" It's all about giving them space to express themselves without feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders. Let's celebrate their unique accomplishments and challenges. : Instead of asking students for precise career plans, adults can adopt a more empowering and supportive approach. Encouraging open-ended questions like, "Have you explored different fields of interest?" or "How can I assist you with your post-secondary planning?" allows students to engage in meaningful conversations about their aspirations without feeling pressured to have all the answers. Adults can acknowledge the achievements and challenges students face during their high school journey, showing appreciation for their individual accomplishments.

Conclusion: So there you have it, wise adults. It's time to lighten the load and support our high school students in their journey of self-discovery. By easing up on the career interrogation, we create an environment that fosters authenticity, personal growth, and lots of laughter along the way. High school is a transformative time, and our role is to guide, empower, and appreciate each student's individual path. Adults should be mindful of the impact their questions about future career plans can have on high school students. By avoiding assumptions and refraining from pressuring students for precise answers, we can create an environment that fosters self-exploration, authenticity, and personal growth. High school is a time of self-discovery and transition, and students need space and support to navigate their own unique paths. Let's focus on empowering students, providing guidance when needed, and nurturing an environment where they feel comfortable exploring their interests and making informed decisions about their futures. So, let's ditch the pressure and embrace the joy of nurturing their dreams and aspirations. Together, we can make high school a time of exploration, empowerment, and, of course, hilarious anecdotes. Read More

Other books by Dr. Muhammad

Dr. Muhammad is a writing and education consultant. She has been a public school educator and college counselor for over two decades in one of the largest schools in Alabama. In her career, she has served students in grades K-12, and she is also an author and publisher.

Want to read more?

Subscribe to to keep reading this exclusive post.

147 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.
bottom of page