Each time I’ve approached the end of a major phase in my life, I’ve been equipped with a plan. Upon graduating from high school, I planned to study creative writing at a university in London. Instead, I took a year off of school, moved to a different state, and enrolled at the University of Idaho.
When I first arrived at UI, I planned on majoring in political science. I expected UI to be a stepping stone for me—the school at which I received my undergraduate degree before moving on to law school and eventually becoming a human rights lawyer. Instead, I changed my major three different times by the end of my first year, made meaningful friendships and absolutely fell in love with Moscow.
As I prepared to graduate from college, my plan became a little more flexible. I would find a job somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, hopefully at a newspaper or publishing house. Instead, I now find myself staying on at UI to pursue a master’s degree.
Each time I moved in a direction that deviated from the plan I laid out for myself, it wasn’t that I was giving up on my dreams or lacking the ability to follow through, it was just that as I grew as a human, the things I wanted out of life began to change, and as I moved through my college career, I was presented with new, surprising opportunities I hadn’t previously accounted for. Students face a tremendous amount of pressure to have their lives figured out or planned down to the last detail. From family members to friends to strangers on the street, the question any recent graduate faces the most is something akin to, “What now?”
Despite this pressure to have everything figured out, or least to have some sort of concrete plan in place, students should remember that it’s absolutely okay to have no plan. In fact, learning to be flexible in the face of change is often essential for personal growth.
Incoming students who aren’t certain as to what they want to major in or the profession they want to go into shouldn’t feel pressured into immediately mapping out their lives — college is the perfect place to explore your interests and discover your passions. Oftentimes, it’s best to start off working toward abstract goals, such as going into a profession that helps others, or concrete ones, such as taking one class outside of your major every semester.
Conversely, students who have concretely planned out their college and post-college careers shouldn’t feel ashamed of that. This isn’t to say knowing what you want is a bad thing. Rather, that there is tremendous value in embracing and adapting to change.
For the first time in my life, I don’t have a plan. I’m no longer sure where I want to go or what I want to do after I complete my two-year graduate program. But that’s okay. While it’s important for students to set goals for themselves and pursue their dreams, it’s also important to be flexible, to embrace, rather than fear, change and be willing to adapt to new opportunities or life circumstances. College provides students with the resources they will need to follow through with their plans or to develop new ones, but beyond that, it provides students with the opportunity to learn and grow, to take risks and make mistakes and to ultimately become confident and comfortable with who they are as individuals.
Corrin Bond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ CorrBond