How to not get caught up in what you want to be when you grow up.
High school was about preparing for college. Like it or not, college is about preparing for life. Forgive the redundancy of the previous sentence, just spelling it out for those who get silly every weekend and may forget.
Look to the person to the left of you. Now look to the person to the right of you. There is a good chance that one of them knows exactly what she or he wants to do with life. Maybe both do. Maybe they have both known for the past 10 years what their majors will be, what their careers will be, what their first jobs will be and what their families will be like. Maybe you are one of those people, too.
Then again, maybe the guy on your left knows exactly what he wants, but the girl on your right has no idea.
She may just be here trying to feel out college, wade through a few classes that will not help her in the future, and spend an extra year or two paying off loans because she will have switched majors five times before graduating. Then once she gets her degree, she may choose an entirely different career path.
Students run the gamut. Some know the field they want to work in, but have no idea of the career in that field. The best advice I can give, speaking from experience, is to not rush the decision process.
If you are like the girl on the right, you need to hear something loud and clear. That is OK. So you may waste a credit or two. You may feel like a major does not fit you and that you want to try many things. But you know what? If you rush and pick a random job, it will be much harder to switch out of that field in the long run.
The most important thing is to take your time. Maybe go to the Career Center, take one of those fortune-teller tests that says what your skills and interests are. Even more simply, pay attention to what you are doing. Tune into yourself.
Which classes do you enjoy? Which projects do you like? Are you good at some of the things you enjoy? What do you hate to do? What comes naturally?
College is huge, and scary. The idea of choosing your life right after high school is daunting. Know that all you have to do is take a breath and realize that if you keep a good head on your shoulders, you will be OK in this life.
In the context of a lifetime, so what if you took a useless class? So what if you wasted your time a bit? You will be the better person for it to know that you made the decisions that were best for you.
When it comes to deciding a major and life path, the final advice is simple. Follow your gut, do what makes you happy—even if it is for a low salary—and keep a positive attitude. Do that, and life should take care of itself.
Matt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.