Oh, the question that every single indecisive student loathes! Truthfully though, some of us may not have a single clue as to what we want to do with our lives. We are in that limbo stage where we are conducting ourselves as adults, but we really do not know how to live as one just yet.
When it came time for me to pick a major I was overwhelmed, to say the least. There were so many different directions I wanted to go. I was on total opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to my top two choices. I either wanted to be an on-staff physical therapist for a sports team, or a news anchor. Weird, right? Doctors and reporters have almost nothing in common, so why the draw? I think it came from this underlying feeling that I am guessing (or hoping) most other college students feel too...and that is the feeling of having the world at your feet. In our heads, nothing is impossible for us. We are ready to sacrifice our sleep, and to get an A+ on a paper, we are willing to overload our bodies with caffeine. We are invincible, and our education can only skyrocket from where we are. We are more than ready to fly!
After many months of weighing the pros and cons of each major I came to the conclusion that I could not pick just one. I loved the sports world too much to even consider giving it up, but I also knew I had been blessed with the gift of speech. My only option was to find an occupation that satisfied both. So that is exactly what I did. As of today I am an aspiring sports broadcaster at Samford University. My major is Journalism and Mass Communications with a minor in Sports Media. For me, a perfect fit!
I know combining the things you love into a career field is not an option for the majority of people, so I have some thoughts that might make it a little easier for you.
- First, find your passion. “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” I cannot tell you how many times I have been badgered with this phrase, but it is true. Waking up every morning and doing the things you love are great, but getting paid to do them is even better. If you can seek out the things about which you are passionate, and dive into an occupation that allows you to do exactly that, you are set. Not only will you love what you do, but it will make getting an education in that field so much easier, because you will be so motivated by your future career.
- Second, reach within your limits. Inspiring, right? Not exactly. For example, I will be the very first to tell you that my math skills might not even amount to “okay.” They are more like “oh no.” I was not blessed with a brain for numbers. But that is perfectly okay. It just means that I probably should not go into any sort of medicine or accounting work. By knowing your strengths and weaknesses, you drastically narrow down your search for a career. As I mentioned earlier, physical therapy was a field I seriously considered. The more I thought about it, however, the clearer it became to me that I would not succeed at it. Not only was I not good at math in school, I did not possess the desire to become any better at it. I was just not driven to be anything more than mediocre at it. Being able to identify that weakness in myself helped me so much. I could clearly see that even if I chose to go into physical therapy, not only would it be a long hard road, but once I arrived, I would not be passionate about it. And who wants to do something your entire life where you have no desire to be great? Not me! If I am going to spend my whole life in one occupation, I want to be one of the greatest ever to do it.
- Last, look where it will take you. This may sound silly, but it is an important aspect of choosing a major many college-age people forget to take into account when selecting a career field. You need to look at the facts about particular jobs. Are they in a big city only? Do they require large amounts of travel? Will they be highly-demanding of my time when I decide to settle down and have a family? While some of these issues may not be a relevant right now, they will be soon enough, and they are so important. Ten to twenty years from now will you be okay with living in a big city? Will you okay with working over fifty hours a week while your friends are out socializing? Conversely, will you be okay with only working half the time and making half the money? These things will all become important to each of us at some point. Take them into consideration now, before you have gotten an education in a career field that requires more of you than you will be willing to give later down the road.
After you have decided what you want to do, picking a college becomes that much simpler. Not all colleges offer all majors and tracks of study, so without much effort, your search is narrowed down for you. Now you get to look for the things you specifically want. Do you want the SEC experience with wild game day festivities and more “pomp and circumstance” than you have ever imagined, or are you looking for the opposite end of the spectrum where you live at home after high school and attend the local community college? There is absolutely nothing wrong with either option, and there is nothing wrong with wanting something in the middle—which is precisely what I chose. I get the honor of calling Samford University “home” for the next four years. What I found most helpful when choosing Samford are:
- The atmosphere: As silly and typical as that might sound, it is important to take into consideration. Some schools are so tightly knit everyone knows everyone and their mother, while at other schools you might not ever learn the names of everyone in your semester-long classes. I chose Samford because it was right between those two extremes. It is big enough that not everyone knows your business, but small enough you can make friends with the majority of the people in your classes.
- The level of education: Thankfully in Alabama we have many great educational institutions. With that being said though, some of them do rank higher than others in rigor in their required courses. If you come from a high school that required much of you academically, you are more likely to succeed in a college that does the same. On the same side of that coin, if you do come from a rigorous high school, should you choose a college that is not particularly challenging, success is almost assured. As I said earlier, know your strengths and know your weaknesses. After you have identified them, set yourself up for success, not failure. Samford is just enough of a challenge for me that I can see the effects of my growing education, but I am not so overwhelmed that I spend every moment of every day in the library.
- NOT the friends: This could almost be considered a classic mistake made by students. Too often people will choose a school because that is where their best friends are going. While that may seem like a good idea in the beginning, I promise it almost never works out. After only being at college for a month I have already lost touch with half of the people with whom I hung out in high school. This is not because they were never my “real” friends or anything like that, but simply because we are all branching out and growing individually. We are making new friends and building new relationships. (This, quite frankly, has been my favorite part of college thus far.) If you pick a school just because your friends are going there, you are instantly limiting your “new” social circle. Not only that, your friends’ choice of a college may not offer all or any of the fields you want to pursue. While friendships are extremely valuable, they should never interfere with your future.
I know having to pick a college and a career direction in the same year is beyond stressful and the decisions you face can completely consume you at times. My advice to you would be to remember who you are and what you want. Do not settle and do not be fearful. Your future is what you make of it. Enjoy your college years and use them to fully prepare for the rest of your life. If you do, I promise you will do great things.