the most important job

First-year college students long for certainty, which is understandable because academic coursework is challenging, the opportunity cost is high, and adjusting to new social circumstances can be difficult. Students reach out for an anchor, they want a clear vision for how their studies directly apply to a career. The problem is that their experiences in high school are more narrow than the possibilities that open up for them during college. 

Certainly college should prepare students for future employment; this is one important reason to pursue higher education. The trouble begins when students fail to give themselves enough breathing room to investigate why they are pursuing a particular major. They see other students who seem to know exactly what they want to study and how it will lead to a job at a particular company and they think: Why can’t I be like that too? What is wrong with me?

The most important job for a student starting college is to explore a broad enough array of possible majors. This is true not just for the undecided. New students who believe they are certain about their fields of study should affirm those choices; it is tragic for an upperclass student is to realize that she is pursuing the wrong field. 

Being an explorer is not easy work: it is emotionally and intellectually exhausting. And while this is the most important job for new college students, in the sense that this is what they need to do at the start of their development as professionals, it is not the only reason for college. But that is a topic for another time.

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