Goal-based Decisions

Making Decisions based on your own goals

Before you can make decisions based on your goals, you have to set a few goals.

April Kim thinks about her futureApril Kim has always wanted to be a doctor. Now she is trying to be realistic. To get into medical schools means taking a heavy load of science classes including Biology and Chemistry.

April also loves music and plays the violin. She’d like to continue her music studies. Can she do both?

She also knows she will need to get pretty nearly straight A’s to get into medical school.That means she wouldn’t have much time to spend with friends or be part of college organizations.

And then there is the cost. She is getting a part-time job to pay for college and knows she’d need to get huge loans for medical school. It would take years to repay the loans, and if she decides to work in a clinic in a poor neighborhood, she wouldn’t be earning that much.

Maybe she should settle for Nursing School. But her parents want her to be a doctor. She doesn’t want to let them down. And she really does want to be a doctor.

What kind of goals do you need to think about?

April has a good idea about what kind of work she wants to do, and what her major should be. Many college students begin with no idea about a future career or what they want to major in.  For them, their major decisions should include:

  • What do I want out of life?
  • What major should I choose?
  • What kind of work should I think about?

What do I want out of life?

Put the following goals in order from most important to least important. Add other similar goals.

  1. Get very rich.
  2. Earn enough to live comfortably.
  3. Earn enough to support my family.
  4. Get married to someone I really love.
  5. Have children.
  6. Become famous or well-known in your area.
  7. Make my family proud of me.
  8. Be well-respected.
  9. Do something that makes a difference in the world.
  10. Do something that changes the lives of at least a few people.
  11. Find a job that I really enjoy doing.
  12. Become well-educated and a life-long learner.
  13. I just want to be happy.

Choosing a Major

Some people know what they want to be when they are very young. My son knew he wanted to be a physics teacher when he was in fifth or sixth grade, long before he had taken a physics class. He majored in physics and is now a high school physics teacher.

Some people don’t choose a major until the last minute, just before starting their junior year.

I always knew exactly what I wanted to study, but I changed my mind nearly every semester. I even changed my mind my senior year when it was too late. I completed my major in philosophy but began taking classes in education so I could teach school.

You, too, have the right to change your mind. Choosing a major isn’t a decision you are stuck with for the rest of your life.

To make a wise decision, I’d recommend several steps.

1. Think about what you really want out of life.  List five or ten possible areas of work that would make you happy. If your career interests are all in business, you probably don’t want to major in music or philosophy. Take elective courses in such areas of interest.

2. Study the catalog and select three to five (or more) subjects that look most interesting to you. Start with those most likely to lead to a career you would enjoy and take electives in each area.

If you really don’t like one of these classes, think about whether the problem is the subject or the teacher. Some students change majors and regret it later. Sit in on several advanced classes in the area. Talk to other professors in the department before making a decision.

3. Get a part-time job, summer job,  internship, or do volunteer work in the area to see if you’d like to work at that kind of job. If you are undecided,  get practical experience in several different areas. These experiences will help you make an informed, intelligent decision.

Making  Decisions about your future

If April decided to go to medical school, she will know that making top grades are extremely important. She might take an occasional music class or play in a school orchestra for relaxation, but most of her time will be spent on science classes. She can make some time to spend with friends but might decide to socialize over meals.

Andrew thought about medical school but decided he could never make the grades and wasn’t that interested in science. He is really interested in politics, but hasn’t decided if he wants to run for office or be one of those people who develop campaign strategies. He might also enjoy working as a speech writer. He decided to study political science with electives in public speaking, writing, and business. After all, running a campaign takes marketing skills.

Federico wants to write novels so he is majoring in creative writing. But he is realistic. He might not get anything published for years, if ever.  He will need to earn a living. He needs a backup plan. He is taking education classes so he can teach English.

As you make your decisions, you might brainstorm possible choices, do some research about potential careers and subjects you might major it. List reasons for and against each choice. Don’t just count the reasons for an against. Weigh their importance. Narrow the choices gradually. Make the choice, understanding that, while it might take an extra year or two of college, you really can change your mind.

Making Goal-based Decisions

As you begin to define your goals, you should consider them when making other decisions. I you plan to spend years in graduate school, that should affect your decision when you consider un-protected sex. Consider how your life will change if you have a baby or end up paying child support. Many students have given up on their dreams because of a pregnancy.

Consider your goals as you begin to make friends. You might choose friends who are taking the same classes so you can work together and support each other. On the other hand, you might decide to make friends in other areas that you are interested in.  April might want friends who are studying music, and area she is interested in.

Make decisions about how you use your time and money based on your goals. If you plan to go to graduate school and are concerned about the cost, think about this before buying a car.

If you dream of competing in the Olympics, you need to consider that when deciding what to eat and drink, scheduling time for training, and deciding not to smoke.

Social Decisions                        Personal Decisions                            Most Difficult Decisions

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