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Why Am I Here?

Tuesday, Jul. 5, 2011

$50 Amazon giftcard for best comment.  Deadline Sunday, July 10, midnight.

Junior and senior year in high school sometimes seemed like one long slog to Christina.  Between the PSATs, the SATs, the APs, the ACTs, her GPA, her sports practices, and her job tutoring, everything was oriented toward polishing her resume and getting her into college.

She went through the entire application process because that's what everyone expected her to do.  Now she was in, an undeclared freshman, she couldn't help wondering what she was doing here.  Was it right for her to be spending so much of her parents' money on college when she didn't even know what she wanted to study?  Was she taking the slot of someone else who would have really known what she wanted from her education?  Was college just going to be a repeat of that stressful high school experience, where she felt like she was always preparing for the future but not really living her life?

Comments Comments

Cameron said on Jul 5, 2011
I was in the exact same position as Christina when I started college. I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to pursue as a career, no idea what interested me enough to major in, not even much of an idea what I was good at. I decided to swing for the fences and pick pre-med. It didn't take me long to figure out that wasn't for me, so I browsed around for the rest of my freshman year (and part of my sophomore year), sampling different classes to see what suited me. Eventually I found psychology, which I am extremely happy with. Though finances can be a concern, if your parents are committed to paying your way through graduation from a four-year school, they should be supportive of your search for an interest. Ask them. They may even have had the same questions when they were in college. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Deepti said on Jul 6, 2011
Christina needs to ask herself: Am I, or am I not, academically inclined? The pressure she felt in high school to succeed seems to have kept her from considering this question. I would suggest that she withdraw from college for as long as she needs to figure out where she stands. If Christina concludes that she would like to go the academic route, then I don't think it's too much of a problem that she doesn't yet know what she would like to pursue. A huge percentage of college freshmen are unsure about their future plans. College is the very place to explore your options. One big reason college students are made to take a variety of classes is so they can get a clearer idea of what they would really like to do. If Christina views her undergraduate years as a time to explore, she will be less likely to feel that she is constantly preparing for the future rather than living in the moment. If she decides, however, that she isn't interested in academics, she should probably switch to a path more focused on what she really wants to do. It would be a waste of her time and her parents' money for her to continue getting an undergraduate education she doesn't plan to use. The spot she is occupying in the university could be given to someone else more academically inclined. Meanwhile, Christina could get started on preparing for her career of choice, rather than constantly living up to other people's expectations. - Like
Ben Chinoy said on Jul 6, 2011
Christina is experiencing a common phenomenon that many college students go through, she is growing up. Part of the college experience is figuring out what you want to do with your life. I know from personal experience, that I also had many of her feelings, especially not knowing what I wanted to do. As I went through my freshman year, I realized that not everyone knows what they want to do with their lives. In fact, some people have no clue! College, especially in the U.S., allows students to have choices and make decisions. They can take new classes, have new experiences, stay up all night or go to bed to early, and most importantly they can figure themselves out. As Christina becomes more and more comfortable, she will begin to make new friends and gradually become happier. Most people, at least in my experience, do not figure out what they want to do overnight. And, as she grows older and matures she will figure herself out, as the feelings she has are completely normal. She just needs to relax and enjoy herself. - Like
Miriam said on Jul 7, 2011
You don't have to go to college right away... or ever. That doesn't mean I think Christina shouldn't enter college immediately after high school, just that it's not the right choice for everyone. How can you tell? The key is not whether you know what career you want to pursue or even what you want to major in. College can be the place to sample a variety of fields in preparation for choosing a profession. It can also be a place for delving into "impractical" subjects like philosophy or literature for the sheer pleasure of expanding and disciplining your mind; graduate school or life experience can then lead you to your profession. And college has indisputable advantages in the workplace: A study by the Census Department in 2000 showed that college graduates earned almost twice as much as high school graduates over a lifetime. Still, you don't belong in college if you really don't want to spend the next four years studying. It's really that simple. Some people would much rather work with their hands, and an apprenticeship or vocational school may suit them much better than a university. Other people need some time off to de-stress and figure out what they want to do with their lives. A "gap year" working, volunteering, or traveling may help them find direction so that when they do go to college, they know what they want out of their education. - Like - 1 person likes this.
David DeCosse said on Jul 9, 2011
Too many students arrive at college thinking that ethics is only about a short list of things that you shouldn't do (usually pertaining to drugs, sex, and cheating). But they rarely think that ethics is also about being - about who you are and who you become. I don't think it's possible to appreciate the ethical significance of college without considering such fundamental matters of character. To be sure, great choices of character can be made pursuing things other than college - vocational school, the military, service work, having a family, working full-time because you have to, creating a start-up like Microsoft (think college dropout Bill Gates!), etc. But college is a scene where these choices occur in a setting of intellectual challenge, of new ideas flying in from every direction, of accountability for the quality of your thought, and of meeting people from a wide variety of backgrounds. There's no magic potion here. You might waste the experience of college and come out little changed from when you walked in. But that would be a shame and waste, certainly of the money spent to go to school but, even more, of the possibilities for the development of character. Do you want to assume the responsibility for shaping your character during the intellectual and personal adventure of college? Then college is for you - as an ethical matter. - Like - 1 person likes this.
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