Is it too late to change my goals in middle school?

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a third-year middle school boy, and I’m having problems deciding my future.

I lived in the United States until I was a fifth-grade primary school student. At that time, I didn’t think very seriously about taking entrance exams and what school I would go to in the future.

After I became a third-year middle school student, my classmates started talking about which universities they wanted to go to. So I started thinking about it, too.

Of course, I have my own idea about my future — something in the science and technology field. However, I’m better at subjects in the liberal arts. Recently, I started seriously applying myself to school subjects I’m not good at, but I don’t know whether it will work out. What criteria should I use when making a final decision on my future?

I understand it’s difficult for me to make my dream a reality given my grades in scientific subjects and the fact that I’m already a third-year middle school student. Is it possible for me to switch from liberal arts to science and technology if I do my best?

D, Tokyo

Dear Mr. D:

My current job is to analyze modern society as a sociologist. However, when I was a middle and high school student, I was good at math and physics, so I planned to study those fields in the future. I was really bad at English and Japanese, and I was particularly terrible at writing. My Japanese teachers back then probably couldn’t have imagined that I would write for a living in the future.

You’re still a third-year middle school student. I think it’s too early for you to decide whether you’re suited for liberal arts or science and technology and give up doing what you like to do.

Students concentrate on learning subjects they’re good at and stop learning subjects they don’t have to learn to pass entrance examinations — this may be ordinary practice for succeeding at university entrance examinations.

However, liberal arts and science are now becoming more meshed together. When studying a specialized field at university or starting life as a full-fledged member of society, it’s helpful if you’ve acquired the ability to process quantities and think mathematically, as well as education and knowledge about liberal arts subjects. I recommend you learn these things no matter what specialty you choose.

If you already have a clear image of the path you want to take in the future, why not try and make it come true? Depending on the opportunities you get, the subjects you’re good at and the ones you’re bad at can change. You may decide to try a new path later on, too.

Passing the entrance exam for the university you want to go to isn’t meant to be the ultimate goal in life. Don’t lose sight of what you truly want to do by obsessing over the few advantages or disadvantages you will have when taking entrance exams.

Masahiro Yamada, professor

(from Aug. 16, 2015, issue)Speech

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