Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Why Taking Time Off Before Going to College is a Good Idea

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Taking Time Before College

Maybe you\’re someone who\’d benefit from some time off before going to college.

Going to college right after high school is a no-brainer for many people. They’ve already decided what career they want, what they will major in, and what institution they will attend. They may also have savings accounts and trust funds at their disposal, ready to tackle the gargantuan costs of tuition, textbooks, dorm rooms, food, and, of course, partying.

Maybe you’re one of those people, or maybe you’re someone who’d benefit from some time off before the next step. In this case, “time off,” means more than just endless partying – it means taking the time to reflect, think and contemplate.

The first questions to ask yourself are:

  • Why you want to go to college
  • Why you picked the major you have in mind. Make a list of all the reasons you can think of, be it money, job security, challenge, passion, or prestige.

Are there right and wrong reasons for choosing a major? The answer is no. Choosing a major should be based on your personal hierarchy of values. Would you rather make a tonne of money in a career that is not perfectly aligned with your interests and goals? Or, would you rather pursue a career that gives you personal satisfaction, yet, would pay much less? Do you want to pursue a highly respected profession such as law or medicine because you feel pressured to live up to certain expectations by family?

There are no right or wrong answers – it’s the questions that count. Keep in mind that choosing a major based on money or prestige over passion may make you feel empty inside, and you may regret your choice. The converse is also true; choosing a major based on passion may make you happy in the short term, but provide little in the way of financial security.

Also keep in mind, your values will most likely change – and usually over the span of only a few years. Remember how your hobbies, interests, and friends changed after you transitioned from junior high to high school? Well, the same thing will occur over the course of your late teens and early twenties. You may be in your third year studying economics, and then decide that you prefer molecular biology. Epiphanies occur suddenly. Students who don’t take the time to discover who they are and what they want risk falling into a rut; the pattern of dropping out and changing majors becomes the norm.

It’s crucial to clearly define your goals and what your personal definition of happiness is. To help you find the answer, try the following:

  • Do some travelling: you will gain more confidence, meet new people, and discover new opportunities you never knew existed.
  • Pursue personal goals: whether it’s playing in a rock band or doing volunteer work overseas.
  • Start a business: find something you enjoy doing and try to turn it into a full-fledged business – even if it fails, your experience will look good on a resume.
  • Make a list of everything you want to do before you die.

Doing any of the above will help you discover what you want to do with your life. You’ll have a clearer vision of what your goals are, as well as how to achieve them.

So take some serious time off; travel, pursue your passion, and do something out of the ordinary. College will always be there should you finally decide to go (and go for the right reasons) – but other opportunities may only be there for a short while.

Marek Gregorski
Author: Marek Gregorski
Marek Gregorski is a freelance writer based in Edmonton.
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