Whose Life is it Anyway?

Over the past 20 years or so that I have worked with students, I have listened to many people discuss choosing a major and career. Some of them have worked for years, while others are just entering college. Some people have a plan, intent on staying the course and working in the field they determined prior to arriving at college. I have met students who have no idea of their major and/or career, expecting or hoping that they will figure it out along the way. Still others have a thought or idea, but it is not their own; rather a person of influence has indicated a certain major or career is the path to take, and the student — for any number of reasons — accepts that directive and continues accordingly.

A big consideration in figuring out your future is reviewing who has the power or authority over you for making such decisions. People in this category may include parents or other family members who are financing your college education. Another reason these individuals may have some sway is by the nature of your relationship; you value their opinion. Others who appear to influence students are supervisors, co-workers, and mentors, as well as friends. The consultants at the CCD may have offered some information about the process to you. Lastly, I believe the media and people we don’t even know might impact the decision based on what we have seen and heard.

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Having all these people’s ideas in your head can get overwhelming. How do you filter out the noise and distraction to make a well informed decision that benefits and guides you through college and beyond? There is no one answer, as we are all different and respond to situations in a variety of ways.  That stated, it is relevant to ask yourself – who will be living your life? A person’s major is not indicative of their lifestyle forever. Though some choose to do so, people don’t have to be defined by their occupation. There are online resources that may provide insight, as well as staff ready to guide and listen objectively to your situation.

I will admit, it concerns me when I hear people tell students what they ‘should’ or ‘should not’ major in, because of their own experiences or perceptions. Often I cannot or will not express my personal opinion that refutes the comment because it is not my place to do so. I won’t criticize someone because our ideas are different. However, when the opportunity arises, I will talk to the person about myths, misconceptions and options offered to students regardless of major or career direction. Jobs that start out as high paying initially may plateau, while those with a lower entry rate have been known to reach or surpass their peers. Being happy and productive in a job cannot be overstated or overrated. Satisfaction with one’s occupation and/or job is a goal many aspire to hold. Is it one of yours?

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At the end of the day, students must figure out their plans, take in as much as possible, and perform to the best of their abilities. Remember, it is your life that you will be living, no one else’s, and though it is a bit cliché, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” So ask yourself – what are your priorities and interests and how do your decisions support them? Do you feel confident with your choices and actions? Are you ready to live your own life?