A Word of Advice

Monday was preschool graduation day for the Senior Agents. In September Agent J will return to the same preschool and attend the three-year-old class. Agent E will be moving on up to the Big K at the school on base. 
Coincidently (or maybe not?) we've watched Toy Story 3 at least five times this week. Pixar movies notoriously make me weepy anyhow, but now that I have my own "Andy" this particular movie gets me even more. And it got me thinking about my own kids going off to college (although light years away at this point). And then it got me thinking about when I went off to college, and what I wish someone had told me beforehand.
My preschool grads . . .
So, if I could go back and offer my seventeen-year-old, preparing-for-college self some sage advice, it would go something like this:
People are going to tell you a lot of things about what college will be like. Most of it will be horrible advice. Here's how it will really go down:
You will start college as a biochemistry major (yes; seriously) and later change to biology. Not that it matters . . . you will lose interest in both quickly and won't be very good at either. You will only major in science because you feel pressured to do so. Well-meaning people will try to convince you that you are too smart to study XYZ and you should choose something "harder" and science-y. But the truth is, you hate chemistry and you suck at math.  To major in the biological sciences, you kinda need to be good at those things. Really.
Anyway, everyone will make a big deal about what you are going to school for . . . as if your choice of major will determine your future career and job security for the rest of eternity. Tip: It will not. The best advice I could give is to start college without declaring a major. Give yourself a chance to figure out what *you* want to do. Take classes you are actually interested in and that you will excel at . . . not courses you think you "should" take or that someone else thinks you would be "good" at. If you want to spend your first year at college taking electives in languages, anthropology, literature, basket weaving, and yes, even biology, by all means do so. Don't let anyone convince you that if you don't fill up your freshman year with core classes for a specific field of study you will be woefully behind. That's why college takes at least four years to complete. There's lots of leeway.
Me (right) and my BFF, 1990
If you want to major in English, and focus on your writing, do it. If you want to major in some obscure liberal arts subject because you find it fascinating, even though you don't know what you will do with your degree, do it. If you have no idea what you want to do at first, that is fine, too. You will figure it out. But if you waste precious time in classes that are over your head and you hate, by the time you finally do get a clue and change your major, your GPA will be shot.
Eventually you will discover your passion lies with psychology, specifically social psychology. You will have grand ideas about earning a PhD, working as a counselor, and and then becoming a college professor. You will come up with a plan for all the fabulous education- and career-related things you are going to do before you grow old. You know, like thirty.
This will not happen. You will work paycheck-to-paycheck jobs for a while, a long while. Someday you will start grad school and never finish it. You will give up when you are just a few credits away from your master's degree.  You will move across the country to marry a man you shouldn't be with and will later divorce. This will all be very expensive and emotionally painful, and you will have nothing to show for it.
Me with my loves in Pisa, Italy
Eventually you will find your niche: writing and copyediting. This has nothing to do with psychology, per se, but you will need a college degree to secure this job, so you won't feel as though you "wasted" those years. Then you will find Prince Charming, pop out three kids, become a stay-at-home mom (by choice) and really start putting that psych background to good use. Unlike some of your peers, you won't regret giving up a career to be with your children. You will regret never having established a career in the first place. 
So, please . . . enjoy your college days; you can't get them back. Do something you love, not what other people think you should be doing. Now that I think about it, this is probably good advice for life in general.


  1. Oh, that crazy college degree.. seems like the whole world hinges on it, doesn't it? Love your perspective now. I'm finding my barely used teaching degree is finally "worth the money" as I parent five kids! God doesn't waste a single moment of our lives, does He?

  2. I'm sending a link to this to my 17 yr old niece right now!

  3. Great advice! I am a never-graduated psych/special ed major, and I really wish I had saved myself the expense of paying for all those classes and books--while I have peacefully chosen to be a SAHM. Even following my dad's advice to go to a community college first would have saved me boatloads--I was engaged by my sophomore year!

  4. "Don't let anyone convince you that if you don't fill up your freshman year with core classes for a specific field of study you will be woefully behind. That's why college takes at least four years to complete. There's lots of leeway."

    Ah- a breath of fresh air! That was a great post!