I have some free advice for the young people out there, hard-won after 23 years of full and part-time work. If your parents' advice sounds to you like the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons (rent A Charlie Brown Christmas if necessary), maybe you'll listen to someone who isn't related to you and isn't always all up in your grille about cleaning your room.
Get all the career counseling and aptitude testing your school has to offer. Do everything in your power to understand your personality, strengths, weaknesses, talents, aptitudes, etc. DO IT! Find out what you're most suited for, and don't just drift aimlessly into a job or career. For some of you, this is like telling you be sure to wear pants when you leave the house in the morning, but some people end up in a job or career by accident or default, sometimes through lack of focus or planning. Don't ask me how I know.
Once you figure out what kind of work will be enjoyable and fulfilling to you, focus your energies on achieving it. In Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki advises that the reasons usually given for going to college are all wrong. Don't go so that you can get a good-paying job, although that may be a happy by-product. Go to help you become the person you want to be. Figure out who you are and what you want to do, then if you go to college, go to equip yourself to be who you want to be. You may have to make some adjustments along the way, but that's OK. You'll be heading in the right direction.
If you're in college working toward a technical degree, you may be tempted to neglect some of your more right-brained subject matter, and some schools make it easy to do so by, for example, backing off on the General Ed. requirements for say, engineering. But don't ignore the things that will make you a better, more well-rounded person. There's a reason Leonardo DaVinci was the archetypal Renaissance Man. It's better to be an engineer who appreciates Coltrane, Carvaggio and the use of base isolation units in the seismic design of multistory buildings than one who can talk about only the latter at a social gathering. Because I've yet to hear the latter come up at a social gathering of non-nerds.
If you are able to go to college but you're not sure you want or need to go, my advice is to do it. Maybe not right now, but soon. In the same way that in 20 years you will probably be in a different place and frame of mind than you are right now as you're relaxing in the tattoo parlor getting that wicked sleeve filled in, be careful about limiting your choices 20 years down the road by how you're feeling right now. Believe your parents when they tell you that 20 years comes faster than you can imagine. I know a lot of people who learned the hard way that is a whole lot more difficult going to night school with a full-time job, spouse and 2 kids than it is when you're fresh out of high school and Mom and Dad are still footing most of the bills. Think about all this if you think you don't need college because you're going in a non-traditional direction. Take advantage of the cash cow that is your parents while you can. Just remember, someday you may be ponying up the money for their rest home. I'm not saying everyone should go to college or that you won't find happiness and fulfillment without it, only that if you're not sure, college can only open doors for you.
Let's talk about the military for a moment. One of my few regrets in life is not having served in the military. I had planned a specific career in the military early on, but when my specific plans didn't pan out, I ended up not going that route at all. But I think I would be a better, more disciplined, more squared-away person today for it, had I done it. I probably would have finished college in a shorter amount of time and Uncle Sam would have paid for it. And I'd have that certain justifiable pride that my Dad and many of my friends enjoy that only comes through serving our country in its armed forces. Something to think about.
Unless money is what is most important to you (in which case, helping you achieve happiness is probably a fool's errand), money will likely be the least important factor in your career choice. You've heard the saying "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." If you enjoy what you do, if it is not just a job but who you are, if you look forward to the day's work when you get up in the morning, then you will be happier than a lot of millionaires (there are a lot of happy millionaires out there, but the happiness and the millions are both just the results of doing what they love) and will adjust your lifestyle to fit your income. If the only thing that truly fulfills you is making art, then you will be happy living on ramen noodles in a 1,000 square foot studio on what seems like chicken feed, making art, and you'll be miserable in a 3,500 sq.ft. custom home making six figures in marketing, your desk at the office looking more and more like a coffin every day. And while benefits and job security are worthy considerations, life on earth is inherently insecure, and change is the only constant. Ask your parents what are the only 2 sure things in life.
Finally, the best advice of all is found in Matthew 6:33.
Godspeed, go forth and conquer, and if you make the big time, remember the little people like me. You may address autographs "To my really good friend Jerry, without whom I wouldn't be where I am today."