What will I be when I grow up?

I’m indecisive, young, and insecure. This being an adult thing is rough. I turn 20 in under a month, but I began #thatcollegelife when I had barely turned 18.

I turned 18 on August 8, 2015, and two weeks later I was living in Schneider Hall on the Honors floor with a roommate. I was finally a legal adult and college student all at once. I was struggling with making a lot of very adult life choices, like cutting ties with my controlling family and finally trying to find some way to combat my crippling depression and anxiety. Oh, and I was supposed to pick a major and stick with that until I graduated in May of 2019.

Guess what? I’ve changed my major four times, I’ve changed my Fall 2017 schedule at least five times, and am grasping for some sort of calling. I’m going to be 21 when I graduate college. What’s next? A career? Grad school? Being a goat herder? Or I could be a social worker? Or I could do something practical like getting an MBA? The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is that I’m privileged enough to have this many choices. I’m privileged to be in college. I’m privileged to have virtually a full ride. I’m privileged to live in a country that has a great education system, albeit expensive. I’m privileged to be an RA that gets the opportunity to help other students navigate college life and adulthood. I’m privileged to have all of these resources at the tips of my fingers and I need to be grateful for that.

All of a sudden, most college students now have multiple new things in their life to worry about. You’ve gotten into college now, but how do you pay for it? How do you decide what to study? What are you going to do with your degree? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Is my resume strong enough? Do I have enough work experience? And the worst question: WILL I EVER GET A JOB?!?!

At the end of the day, I’m nervous about my future. I’m not set on what I want to do. I’m a bit too obsessed with the future, almost to the point where I ruin my experience in the present moment. I have the rest of my two years in college mapped out, but I never stick to my plans. It’s hard to commit to something when I haven’t even figured out who I am.

What are some ways that I can help myself, as well as my peers, in this arduous journey of finding a way to pave our paths, make a difference, and successfully live life to our fullest potential?

  1. I firmly believe that college isn’t always the best option for everyone. I’ve told many friends that they need to take a step back, take a year (or however long) off and re-evaluate their reasons for going to college. I think it would be highly beneficial for families, guidance counselors, teachers, society, etc. to stop stressing that you need a college degree in order to be successful. Yes, it’s awesome to garner a well-rounded education, but it isn’t the only option or the best option for everyone.
  2. I love mentorships, so I think it’s important for students to have connections before they go to college with other important adults in their lives, as well as with alumni, faculty, staff, etc. that are willing to help guide a young adult that most likely is unsure about what they want to do. I love asking people how they got where they were and hearing their best advice for college students. Most of the time, adults will tell me not to worry as much. UGH!
  3. I also think it’s important to create strong college communities that have the resources needed to support students and their peers. I wish SIU, and other universities and colleges, had more career counseling options that were readily available.
  4. I also wish I had more time to meet with advisors that were more willing to help their students pave their paths to success. The experiences I have had with my advisors has mostly had to do with them telling me to meet X, Y, Z requirements. The bottom line is that us college students need someone that has the wisdom to legitimately advise us about more than meeting the degree requirements.
  5. I wish there was an LLC (Learning Living Community) for Undecided/Exploratory students as well as groups that met weekly to discuss where they are at in their journey. I know I have questions about studying abroad, finding jobs, networking, and deciding on a career. Peer support is something that I strongly believe in, and I believe that this may help increase retention as well as dissolve a lot of doubts and worries. It always seems like everyone has their whole life figured out, right? LOL.
  6. There has to be an alternative to the restrictive majors we have, right? I wish that there was a thesis or final project at the end of the degree program where college students would be responsible for proving their proficiency in whatever they are studying. They would definitely have an advisor and people to help them along the way, but I think this would help students find something they are passionate about and try their best to figure out something new or delve deeper into a topic of interest. Many of the courses that are required are not of interest to me, although they are courses for my major. Without these requirements, students can focus more on their interests and create a stronger plan about what they want to do in the future.
  7. Give students the opportunity to lead! I think that leadership is a major tool that helps empower young adults. Through my own journey, I have learned that I love and dislike many aspects of leading a team, building a grassroots organization, and paving my own path. I learned that I love making connections with others, helping encourage others to step up when they are unlikely to, making a difference, and building strong teams. All of these things can lead to possible careers if I begin to dissect the aspects that I like and dislike about the experiences I’ve had with leadership, being an RA, etc.
  8. Finally, I think it’s important to explore. That’s what college is about after all. You don’t have to be all business all the time, because you DO have time to explore. It’s daunting to go off the path that advisors and yourself have created, but it’s okay to deviate for a semester or two or three! Most students don’t graduate in four years anyways, so take the time you need to explore your interests, try new things, and make connections with awesome mentors!

These 8 ideas on how to help improve the higher education system and pieces of advice are just a few of my thoughts as to how to help college students pave their path to success. It’s a long road, but finding a great support system is pivotal. I’m still working on creating a supportive group of friends, college students, mentors, family, etc. that are willing to wholeheartedly support me throughout my journey as a young college student that has no idea what she’s doing most days.