Choose a College!  Choose a Major!  Why is this so hard for a 17 year-old?  Parents often choose this moment to say things like “it’s your life dear, not mine.”

I remember being 17.  Vaguely…  I remember the world was a different place and college was sorta in my plan, but I no idea where to go or how to do it.  Imagine my guidance counselor telling me the day before the SAT that if I wanted to go to college, I should go take a test TOMORROW!  Ah, those were the days!  One thing I do remember vividly is that my Dad wanted me to go to Stanford.  He was an engineer-turned-marketing director in a big California telecom company, and I was the first one of his five kids to go to college.  He wanted me to go to STANFORD!  Talk about shooting for the moon!

True confession here: I struggled with high school algebra and only as adult, years later, did I understand it.  Algebra wasn’t my biggest problem though.  My biggest problem was I had no idea what I wanted to do and no experience in making decisions this monumental.  I had so little experience in anything!  But my Dad thought he knew.  Even before STEM majors were a thing, Dad wanted me to choose one.  Why? Because he wanted me to be successful, and in his mind, going to Stanford guaranteed success.  Sound familiar?

At a recent workshop, I read this verse out loud:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. “ Ephesians 2:10

Then I asked this question, “What in this verse scares you?”

A parent answered first. “I am afraid God will call my son to a career that doesn’t pay enough to support him, let alone a family.”  There were murmurs of agreement from the adults in the crowd. I nodded.  Trusting God in this decision is hard for parents, even when they trust him easily in other areas.

Then I looked at the students and said, “What about you guys?  What scares you?”

One young man looked at me, looked around the room, looked at his dad, then back at me and spoke in a low voice, “I am afraid I won’t like what he has prepared.”  A little honesty from a brave young man, who, by the responses of the other students in the room, hit the nail on the head.   What if God had a plan that included real pain, or suffering, or living in some forsaken land with no food, or heaven forbid, no Internet access?  You know that old adage, “It is easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission”?  In some ways this is how we look at college and career planning.  If we just do what feels right then God must bless it.

We also want guarantees.  We will be paid well.  We will love our work.  Our culture sees a job one loves that pays beyond ones’ wildest imagination as the Holy Grail.  That’s why this question of major and college choice is so hard.  We are afraid if we make a wrong move, we will be doomed to a low-paying, boring job for the rest of our lives. Or, we will CHANGE MAJORS! Or CAREERS! Life will be over.

So, let me help you.  You have heard this before.  Some smart person has said it to you.  Life is a process.  It is a journey. Part of the fun of living is all the choices, decisions, and a little bit of risk.  It is true.  But really, you say, this college thing is important.  I get it.  So let me give you the same advice I give my clients. You have some work to do, but I will help, and there is even a checklist!  BTW, the list is taken from a book called Don’t Waste Your Talent by Bob McDonald, PhD and Don E. Hutcheson.  I have found it is a great resource and should help you through the process, even if you just skim it and think about things.

Here are the areas you should consider while making your choices:

  1. God-given Talents and Abilities (He gave them to you for a reason.  Which parts are your vocation, and which are your avocations or hobbies? I can whistle, and I like whistling, but really, who wants to whistle all day every day?)
  2. Skills, Interests, and Personality (Knowing something about these three areas really helps clarify your motivation)
  3. Values and Goals (What do you care about most?  What would you be willing to give up in order to reach those goals or support those values?)
  4. Family of Origin (It really does matter what your folks think.  God gave them to you for a reason, but that doesn’t mean they should make this decision for you.)

In my next few blog posts, I will relate how to go about exploring these ideas and will list other mostly online resources for you to seek out. In fact, here’s a fun one that’s short and free:

Also, think about this question, “If God knows me better than I know myself, shouldn’t I be asking Him to show me what he has created me to do?”

Well, I didn’t go to Stanford, much to my Dad’s chagrin.   I actually went to a NACCAP member school, and learned valuable lessons along the way.  So think about being God’s workmanship and ask Him to guide you in this process.  Besides, He prepared you for this…

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