Decision Time: College Forethoughts

Our mentors and guides tell us that we will have a better life with a college degree.  This isn’t guaranteed, but college degrees definitely open more doors than high school diplomas or equivalents.  A college degree won’t guarantee you a great job, but it gives you a better chance of getting a job when times are tough and unemployment is high.  In this way, at minimum, a college degree will pay off.

The decision to attend college or university is an important one.  Whether you attend college and where you go will greatly influence the kind of adult you become, the kind of work you end up doing, and where you sit among your competitors in your field – it will very likely correlate with your career success.  Every university has its own culture of intellectual and academic expectations.  Some universities breed Nobel Prize winners while others churn out degrees pretty much to anyone who expends minimal effort and pays.  The difference lies in the level of excellence that is the status quo at each individual institution.

After you’ve made the decision to dedicate at least the next four years of your life furthering your education at an institution of higher learning, the next question becomes where do you want to go?  This question is no less important than the decision to attend university in the first place.  This decision will impact your life tremendously, and carve a path for your future career – or not.

28 yesOne of the questions to ask yourself is what do I want from my education?  What do you hope your education will do for you?  Do you want to just improve your chances of securing employment in a tight economy?  Or do you want to change the world?  It’s okay if you don’t know yet how you want to change the world or the kind of job you may ultimately want, but you should ask yourself, honestly, what you dream of.  Where would you like to be as you settle into your life?  Do you see yourself not working and becoming a stay-at-home parent one day? Is that what drives you?  Do you dream of being in some high-powered position as a mover and shaker in society?  It is important to answer this question honestly for yourself.  You don’t have to share your answer with anyone if you don’t want to, but it’s really important to recognize this for yourself.  The answer to this question will shape your decision on where to attend college.  If in truth you want to one day not work outside the home, yet you decide to attend a high-ranking university such as Columbia or Stanford, you won’t likely have the wherewithal to make it through to graduation.  So do yourself a favor at this point, before you begin your college life, and ask yourself: what do you want from your college degree?  Where do you hope your degree will land you in society?  With that answer, you are better prepared to select an appropriate institution that will help you get there.

Michele Poff, Ph.D.
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