Imagine this: you are face-to-face with a handful of life-altering decisions that will impact your salary, your future and existing relationships, the place you live, and every move you make for the rest of your life. There are so many options, so many outcomes that you cannot see… You know what you should do? Ask a teenager!
No? Well, why ask them to do it for themselves?
Students nearing high school graduation are asked a series of questions, including: do you want to go to college, join the workforce, or join the military? This decision alone is massive.
For most, they have some idea. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 70 percent of high school grads in 2016 decide to pursue college. That decision was easy enough. What’s next?
Well, what college do you want to go to? In state? Out of state? Traditional or commuter campus? How will you pay for it? Will you get a four-year or two-year degree? What do you want to study? What do you want to do with that degree?
Along the way, these students face many more questions which are sometimes met with a shoulder shrug and best guess. How could anyone expect any more – there is literally no one less qualified to answer some of these questions.
The best that new students can do is follow their heart. But it is foolish to say that their heart will stay the same. The hard truth is that people change, especially when they are introduced to new people, experiences, and places: which perfectly characterizes the college experience.
A change of heart can be seen in lots of ways. Some changes are small, like a new wardrobe or group of friends. Some decisions are more drastic: changing majors, transferring schools, or dropping out altogether. It is important to keep in mind that these big changes are not so uncommon.
About one third of all college students pursuing a bachelor’s degree change their major, and one in nine change it more than once (though, from personal experience, these numbers seem a little low.) Over a third of college students transfer schools within six years of beginning. Only about 58 percent of college students finish their degree within six years.
Big decisions like these are massively common but are still perceived as eyeroll-inducing and cliché.
Sending a loved one to college should be a proud process of watching them learn and blossom into the best version of themselves. If this means changing directions, big or small, it should be met with warm encouragement, not disappointment. It is more important that students pursue what is best for them, not maintaining some perfect and uncomplicated image.
Higher education is about expanding your worldview, and direction changes are only proof that it’s working.