In the last month or so, I’ve met with at least three students seemingly close to passing out under the perceived pressure of  having to make a decision RIGHT NOW about “the rest of their lives” as it relates to selecting a college major.

Others are gripped in the vice of choosing a college.

While others, are sweating it out because they don’t want to go to college, but don’t know how to communicate this without their parents, guardians or some other authoritative figure, a well-meaning voice in their lives, gently saran wrapping them with guilt and regret to the point of suffocation.

REALLY? The rest of your life? Isn’t this all just a little dramatic? 

All of the folks heaving that pressure on you should be ashamed of themselves.

I take that back, they don’t have to be ashamed, but I do lovingly suggest they stop putting all of this unnecessary pressure on you.

Before I spent some private time chatting with her daughter, one parent who accompanied her for a private chat with me said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘She doesn’t realize that she has to make a decision now, this is going to determine the rest of her life. When I was her age, yadda, yadda, yadda . . .’

First of all, when she was her daughter’s age, so many things were different, a lot different!

And, second, although it is true that every choice we make at any given moment WILL affect the direction of our lives, in this context, suggesting that her daughter had to make this big decision NOW, because she can’t change it later, so she needs to make it good because she’s going to be stuck with it, is misguided advice, PERIOD.

NEWS FLASH: You’re never stuck, you ALWAYS have a choice!

It hurts my heart to see students buckling under this kind of pressure, because the bottom line is:

  • you’re NOT going to die if you don’t go to college NOW
  • you’re NOT going to die if you don’t make a decision about which college to attend NOW
  • you’re NOT going to die if you don’t declare a major NOW, when you’re 17, 18, or 19, or any other age for that matter

According to the CIA Fact Book, the current life expectancy at birth of a North American male is 77.5 years and 82.1 years for a North American female [1]. So, let’s say you’re 18 years old. Is it safe to conclude that the decision you make about all of this college/career business at 18 means you’re stuck with that decision for the next 59-64 years?

And, if you’re an adult learner, whatever your situation or age, are you stuck too?

The point is: Any choice you make can always be followed by another choice that better serves you and your situation.

As long as there’s life, there’s time to explore and make decisions along these lines.

And, here’s the cool part, you can change your mind. Of course, each choice has its own set of consequences, but let’s not rush to the conclusion that those consequences have to have a negative impact on your life.

When I hear a student share that he or she changed his or her major several times, I don’t conclude that that student is flighty or indecisive. They may be feeling seriously obligated to make a decision that makes someone else happy and they’re wrestling with it.

In some cases, I actually applaud and celebrate their awareness around what works for them and what doesn’t.

In most cases, students don’t change their minds to drive their families nuts (unless they’ve pissed them off in some way), they’re changing because something isn’t lining up for some reason.

Students, dear students, explore, ask questions, be curious, flutter about from student organization to student organization, travel, read, research, shadow someone, do an internship, study abroad, take a gap year, or whatever it takes for you to hear and allow yourself to be guided by your inner wisdom and figure out where you want to land, GENERALLY.

Why generally? Because your decision is not about deciding THE JOB you will have, or THE CAREER you will settle into.

First, it’s about finding out what makes YOU tick – your natural brilliance.

I define natural brilliance as that unique combination of your talents, strengths, innate abilities and creative passions, which also include acquired skills, preferences, and everything that comes together to make you, YOU.

Then, YOU decide what you really care about.

Then, YOU decide why and how you’d like to express all of this in the world.

Laurence Boldt notes it beautifully, so I ain’t gonna mess with it. He says in his book, How to Find the Work You Love:

“Joseph Campbell gave a simple formula for doing the work you love: ‘First you must find your own trajectory and then comes the social coordination.’ Your ‘trajectory’ is the creative passion of your life –the energy, motivation, and direction that come from within. It is your calling, the work you love. Making the ‘social coordination’ is the creative challenge of your life—the process through which you give your inner creative passion form and substance in the life of society.”

I’ll delve into the work of Joseph Campbell on this subject a lot more in future posts, as he’s provided so many juicy tidbits that I can’t wait to share to make your journey more enjoyable, enlightened and intentional.

But do you see what’s being emphasized here? It all has to start with YOU, understanding who you are and what you want, and that doesn’t happen over night. It takes time, and varies from person to person.

Pressure from others doesn’t speed up YOUR process of finding work you love, it may actually slow it down.

There are so many factors involved in how you come to know and how you decide to express it – whether you do so for compensation or not.

Don’t allow anyone to put this kind of pressure on you. I know this is easier said than done, especially if your parents are footing the bill for your education.

Know that there are ways to communicate to them, through carefully thought out words and your passionate actions, what you really want.

In some cases, they come around and ease up, but unfortunately for some of you, they won’t. They may continue to pressure you through gentle and well-meaning manipulation or outright force. In these cases, another strategy is necessary.

We’ll address some of these strategies in future posts.

Not to be morbid, but you are going to die some day, this is a fact; but you’re not going to die if you don’t make a decision RIGHT NOW about college and the work you choose to contribute.

You always have a choice, and you can always make a different one that will put you on an even more joyful, meaningful and fulfilling path.


smallrobinavatarlightbackgroundRobbi Crawford, The Student’s Mentor, Author, Speaker, is the founder of BrijBrand.co.  Subscribe below and join the BrijBrand community; we’ll keep you in the loop about the progress on what we’re building for YOU, a safe place to land when you’re feeling stuck, need a plan, and want some targeted help and genuine support!

[1] The World Factbook – Central Intelligence Agency