How to choose a college, major, or career: Part II

  In the first post of this series, two decision-making flaws were presented that explain why students often choose the wrong college, select the wrong major, and ultimately end up in the wrong career. According to Dan and Chip Heath in their new book Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work, these two flaws are (1) Making “whether or not” decisions and (2) Trusting your instincts. To learn more about these, read the first post in this series. The following posts in this series will explain three key techniques to break these bad decisions-making habits and make the best choices for the future. Technique #1: Widen Your Options The Heath brothers’ first technique is to break out of “whether or not” thinking and expand your list of options.
  • And not Or: Rather than wondering whether or not to pursue a specific major, students should use “and not or” thinking. For example, don’t frame the decision in terms of choosing between a Finance or Marketing major. Turn it into an “and” of Marketing and Finance. This could mean majoring in one and minoring in the other, doing a concentrated study, choosing one as a major but taking advanced classes in the other, or seeking out internships to gain experience in the field outside of your primary major.
“When life offers us a ‘this or that’ choice, we should have the gall to ask whether the right answer might be ‘both.’” -Heath brothers
  • Understand Needs: Students should understand what it is they are hoping to gain from a major or what they truly want out of a college experience or in a career. Understanding these underlying needs will better inform students on which decisions will meet their needs the best. Programs like Student Launch Pad help students uncover what they truly value and are passionate about. Answering the “why” allows students more objectivity in determining whether a choice will fully meet their criteria. It also leads to creative thinking on how multiple options could be combined to create the best possible decision.
Pursue multiple options at once. Understand the why behind your decision.

Pursue multiple options at once and understand the why behind your decision.

  • Consider multiple options at once: To further widen their options, students should also consider several options simultaneously. This technique is especially suited to students applying to college, graduate school, internships, or a job. Rather than putting everything on one option – that dream school or perfect job – pursue multiple opportunities at once. This prevents students from being locked into only one choice that may not end up being exactly what they expected in the beginning. Furthermore, as multiple options are pursued, students will gain more knowledge about what a decision (i.e. college, job, internship) is really like. Uncovering this data will improve the quality of their decision-making.
However, what if a student is 100% positive that one option is the absolute best for them? (First, read yesterday’s post on not trusting your instincts.) Then check back next week for the third post in the series presenting Technique #2: Changing Perspectives.  

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