Nading: It’s OK, no college kid actually knows what to do with his or her life


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Opinion: Nading 10/31

Mackenzie Nading

“What’s your major? Oh really. What do you plan to do with that when you graduate?”

These two questions are overworked, over asked, over analyzed and dreaded by many students on campus. It’s one of the most popular get-to-know-you-in-a-matter-of-five-minutes questions used when making small talk in class, in the dining centers or along the sidewalk. You get questioned relentlessly about it at any major holiday or family function by at least five different people during five different conversations.

But these questions aren’t dreaded because they’re asked so often or because you’re sick of hearing them; they become dreadful when you aren’t able to answer them. There’s nothing more frightening than being asked what you plan to do with the rest of your entire life, and you realize you have absolutely no idea. Or you might have a major picked out, and you’re struggling through those general education classes. But when you get asked what you “plan to do” with that degree, you realize you haven’t thought it out that far.

It’s amazing how quickly your mind can convince itself that you are, without a doubt, going to graduate with no money, no functional degree, no future, a wad of debt big enough to suffocate a giant, and you are destined for a future as a homeless person begging for change on the streets of Des Moines.

Freaking out yet? Take a deep breath and listen up. It has been drilled into our heads since high school that as soon as we choose a university to attend, we need to know exactly what we will be majoring in, the exact career path we want to take with that degree, and we are not allowed to veer from the strict four-year path we’re going to take to get there.

This is preposterous.

News flash: It’s OK to have absolutely no idea what you want to do with your life.

It’s time to quit stressing over four year plans, nailing the perfect internship as a sophomore and picking a career path that is “worthy of prestige.” It is time to start living, opening up our eyes and ears and trying to find who we really are, because that is what college is meant to do. Being thrown onto a campus of 31,000 students, living on your own probably for the first time and trying to succeed more than you fail is a perfect recipe for change. Change to your lifestyle, to your friend group and to yourself.

How can we possibly be expected to be certain of what we want our future to hold amidst all this change? I don’t think we are. College isn’t meant to force us into making a rash decision about our future, just because people are asking about it. It is meant to mold us into the people we want to be and the people we are supposed to be. During that molding process we consequently get closer to knowing what it is we want to do for the rest of our lives.

But until that process is complete, it is okay to change your mind; it is okay to not have a clue some days; and it is okay to answer “I’m not sure just yet” when the dreaded question is proposed to you. 

There migth be people who roll their eyes, sigh and tell you what a waste of time and money it is to not know yet. But who are they to decide? If they want to stick to the career path they chose as a junior in high school just because they want to graduate in four years, more power to them. But I, for one, would rather be confident, happy and passionate about my career choice when I walk across that stage and receive my diploma.

I want to walk away from Iowa State with more than just a completed list of requirements and hopefully a couple job offers. It is important to walk away confident in the person you have become, content with all you have gotten to experience in however many years you decided to stick around and having some clue that what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life will make you happy.