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3 Ways to Make Better Decisions in College

It all feels like too much sometimes. Being in college, one is often bombarded with opportunities that inevitably necessitate constant decision-making. You ask yourself: “Do I want to become a physicist? Or perhaps a social worker? I could totally change my major, I just need to follow my heart. But what does my heart want? And hmm, that trip to Vietnam sounds like fun, but do I really want to go when I could be doing an internship?” We become aware of the many paths our life can take. Yet, even the most glorious buffet spreads cannot be eaten in entirety. We have to pick and choose. The question is: How? Here are three life philosophies you can use to help navigate the murkiness that is college.

The Path of Least/Most Resistance

One common question college students ask themselves is “Should I be challenging myself?” This question occurs in multiple contexts. We ask it when deciding whether to take that notoriously tough but interesting class, to join that club we’ve always been curious about but have no experience in, to speak to a complete stranger you find interesting in the cafeteria. Choosing the path of most resistance, i.e. taking that leap of faith, often works for those who thrive on challenges and taking risks. A huge sense of self-fulfilment can be achieved with this mode of thinking, but not without an increase in the possibility of encountering failure and disappointment. Choosing the path of least resistance, i.e. choosing to stay within your comfort zone, might be better for someone in search of stability. After one to two years of undergraduate studies, we begin to realise we like some things more than others and are content with staying in these circles. We are constantly told that the comfort zone is something to “step out of,” but I would argue that the comfort zone should and could be embraced at certain points in your life, such as in deciding what to pursue as a long term academic interest, or in efforts to preserve your own sanity. Sometimes, it is the best way to achieve peace of mind, especially in today’s hectic world.

The Path of Contentment

One of the toughest decisions college students have to make is settling on a “life path.” It is rare nowadays to find someone who can confidently say “I know what I am going to do with my life and how I am going to get there.” Most of us simply don’t know, and that’s okay. Nevertheless, life goes on and decisions have to be made. To absolve this ambivalence, I believe one of the best methods is to constantly consider what will ultimately bring you a sense of contentment. I don’t say happiness for that implies living life full-on smiling all the time with maximum enthusiasm, whereas contentment implies comfort. Aim to answer the question ‘How’s life?’ with ‘okay’ and genuinely mean it. This sense of contentment, however, is achieved differently by different people. Some experience contentment with a quiet life free of surprises, and some feel contentment in being discontented with life, in chasing one goal after another. What is contentment for you?

The Intrinsic Personality Path

As the ancient Greek proverb goes, ‘A leopard never changes its spots.’ While we evolve and develop in college, there are some aspects of ourselves that remain fundamentally stable. A recent study found that some traits like conscientiousness persists in the individual through time. Take the time to reflect back on younger school days to discern what your long-lasting traits might be. Have you always been a stickler for little details? What are the things that consistently annoy or gratify you? Who have you genuinely enjoyed spending time with over the course of your life, and do these people share similar traits? By sifting out your unchanging values and immovable qualities, it becomes easier to make more nuanced decisions. Take, for example, selecting what kinds of jobs you might like to work. Someone who has always liked dissecting pieces of information might enjoy more analytical positions, whereas someone who has always liked imagining the big picture might gravitate towards managerial positions. What have you been like these few years?

These are just some ways of thinking to help guide our decision-making in college and it is important to know that pieces of advice are always imperfect. They contain bits of truth, but not your truth. Ultimately, it is in your navigation of your space and time that you begin to understand what works for you and what doesn’t. Pay attention to these little things and reflect often. If anyone should know you best, it is you.

Kelsie Tan

Nanyang Tech '21

Kelsie is the Founder of Her Campus @ Nanyang Tech, the first HC Chapter in sunny Singapore! She is currently a fourth-year English major who loves writing about wellness and ways to cultivate mindfulness in the modern individual. When she isn't writing or editing, Kelsie enjoys sipping a good cup of Hojicha, and watching the world go by.
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