College is full of choices. Hard ones at that:
Should I sleep in or shower before class?
Should I go out tonight?
Do I really want an nth slice of pizza?
But as if those day-to-day choices alone didn’t invoke enough inner turmoil, there are also the big decisions, the ones that will affect your life significantly:
Should I do a gap year?
Where should I study abroad?
Unpaid internship or paid odd job?
What’s next after I graduate?!
It’s certainly overwhelming at times, but there are a few things you can take into account to ease the decision-making process:
Check your motives.
Sometimes we have to pursue an opportunity for the sole purpose of bulking up the old resume. But there’s a difference between doing something to impress potential employers, and doing something to impress your Facebook friends. Bragging rights should never be the end goal of an experience. That may seem obvious, but in this day and age, when we are capable of sharing every experience we have with the world, we’re in danger of placing public perception way higher on our priority list than it needs to be. So, if you see no value in an opportunity other than how it appears to others, realize that by pursuing it, you might end up in a place that doesn’t feel authentic to you.
Consider the financial aspect.
Yeah – it’s college, and we’re pretty much always thinking about the financial aspect. But really, whenever you’re about to make a decision that involves your hard-earned cash (or the hard-earned cash of your loving legal guardians), you should weigh the financial costs with how much you feel like you’ll truly gain from the experience. If you’re feeling lukewarm about an opportunity, and it’s going to break the bank, maybe you’d feel better stashing those funds and putting them into something you’re more passionate about later on. But if you feel like the experience will be much more valuable to you than the chance to save some dough, then by all means, seize the day.
Think long-term, and take your goals into account.
Sometimes it’s hard to think past next Friday. But when you have a big decision to make, it’s vital to think about how a choice will play into the future beyond its obvious and immediate impact. So make a list of your long-term goals. Does this opportunity have a place in accomplishing those, or would it throw you off track? Would it mean spending a lot of time and effort on a cause that won’t get you where you want to be in the long run?
Consult the people who care about you.
There is no shortage of people in your life who want to see you succeed, and while you shouldn’t base your decisions solely on third party opinions, it’s nice to get perspective on your situation through the eyes of those who want the best for you. So call a family member you’re close with, or your best friend from home, or your roommate who just gets it. They’ll give you perspective and insight that you might not have had if you’d tried to work it out on your own.
Remember your passions.
It can be hard to remember amidst a busy schedule, but it’s important to make what you love a priority. You know how it feels when you’re doing something you love, something that makes you feel fulfilled and truly happy. Let that feeling drive your decisions, and everything will fall into place.
At the end of the day, you should pursue an opportunity because you want it. So don’t let superficial influence steer your choices. Be smart about your funds. Remember your goals. Do what you love.
Even if you end up feeling like you’ve made the wrong move, you’re not doomed; you can use that knowledge for the next time you have a big decision to make.
And definitely eat the pizza.