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Filling in the gap

What to do when you’re confused about college and considering a year off?

Our elder says, “Don’t rush yourself.”

Dear EWC:

Hi! So I am going into my senior year of high school, and of course there is a lot of pressure on choosing colleges and picking majors and all that. My problem is I don’t know what to do at all. I know that I want to go to college for something, but I can’t seem to find a good motivation for a certain major or anything. There is a lot of pressure from my mom to start looking into colleges and it’s really starting to affect me. I am so scared she’s going to be disappointed with things I choose and where I go. I so wish I could take a gap year to find out what my interests are, but I can’t because if I do my entire family will be upset because they expect me to go to college and do really well. I am just really struggling to find out what I should do in college and where I should go to college. I would just really like some help trying to navigate what is going on. Thank you so much!

Dave-Scott replies:

Without a lot of worldly experience, it can be very difficult early in life to choose a major in college–something you can be both committed to and love at the same time. Myself, I ended up with parts of three very different majors by the time I finally obtained my degree. Fortunately, nearly all of my credits applied to my eventual major. Interesting fact–nearly 50% of college graduates never work in the field in which they majored.

So some advice from someone who struggled with the same problem as you—don’t rush yourself. The first two years of school are usually filled with very general classes required by all degrees where you will find you have the time to explore a lot of career options before you have to commit to a specific degree. A gap year might seem perfect for this, but I tend to think you can check out more jobs in a college setting than working at a fast food place or just taking a long vacation. In my day (a long time ago), there was no such thing as a gap year and to me they seem like a waste of time.

You should work as hard at checking out career options as you do your classes. Talk to people at the university as well as people who are already working in the field. I find that people love to talk about what they do and themselves. Try to get a summer job (or internship or volunteer position) in any field you want to more fully explore. Insert yourself as much as possible in the culture of the jobs that seem most interesting to you.

Thing is, start off slowly looking at the majors your school (or other schools) promote and then follow up on whatever seems the most interesting and appealing. Don’t decide on anything until you feel you have really poked into every nook and cranny of jobs that look interesting. Then be very true with yourself in deciding if you have found something you could make a career of or whether you need to step back and start over.

Often in choosing a career, there is a choice between making a bunch of money or devoting yourself to something that makes the world a better place—lots of well-off brokers, not a lot of rich scientists. I don’t understand why the world works this way (our values seem a bit off-kilter), but you may have to decide on one way of life or the other.
I would also recommend a great self-help book for you; You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. I really think it might provide you with many answers.
Please contact me again if I can be of further assistance.

Good luck.

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