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How did you know what your life's purpose was?

I am currently a senior attending Philip & Sala Burton High School and this next step onwards in life is kind of stressing me out. I don't know what to major in and continue to wonder if a desired career field is what I want to pursue. How did you guys feel when you were once in my position? careers majors psychology

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Stephen’s Answer

Hi Jeremiah, your question is one that I'm sure most people struggle with at your age and continue to grapple with as they move forward in whatever work life they choose to pursue.
When I entered college, the "mantra" of the university was "Be Your Best Self". Those four words have come to mean a great deal to me throughout my life. When I entered college I thought I wanted to major in Information Systems and spend my life writing code. I learned in my first semester that I was completely mistaken. I actually changed my major many times in my college years, ending my four years with a degree in Religious Studies with a Minor in Economics.
I remember sitting at graduation and thinking that I had my entire life all worked out, FINALLY! I was going to move to Vermont and live at a monastery and dedicate myself to prayer and good works.
I was invited back to that university 25 years later to speak at commencement; the owner of two retail stores and sitting City Councilor. Yup, a politician and an entrepreneur, a pretty big departure from being a monk!
My point in telling you this is that it's important to have goals and dreams and hopes for your life, but it is equally as important to not be afraid to let all of them change. The most important gift you can give yourself, your family, your community and the world is to simply Be Your Best Self.

This resonates so much! Thank you for sharing :) Archana Vaidyanathan

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Shiri’s Answer

Hello Jeremiah,

The easy answer to this is that most people don't know what their life's purpose is. There are people years older than you who still don't know what they specifically want. When I was applying to colleges, I initially applied as a Sociology major. I later switched to Information Systems. Then as I neared the end of my college career, the question became where in Information Systems do I want to land? Computer technician? Cybersecurity? Software engineer? Programmer? Now I'm a year into my career and I still don't know the answer.

What I can recommend to you is to make the most of your summers. With internships you can get a feel for a company and job position. Depending on what you like and dislike, it can help tailor what positions you go into for your career. Another option is for you to apply to a company's rotational program, where you can move between different positions within one company. But even if you go straight into a specific position, you are always allowed to change your mind about where you want to be or what you want to do. When you find something you want to do that makes you enjoy going to work every day, then you might want to stay where you are.
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Mark’s Answer

Everyone is different when it comes to this. In my case, I really did not know the direction I would take from college even after completing a Masters program in Political Philosophy from Boston College. Just being in college is the biggest step. Picking a major that interests you in the moment, and then modify or change to another major as you go along. Focusing on prerequisites in your Freshman year can also take off the pressure and allow you the time to better figure out what areas of study you want to pursue and major in. Take advantage of enjoying college life, making friends and doing fun stuff. In time, at your own speed, things will fall into place. The good thing about college is that it essentially is very individualized. For me, I was well into my 30's before I figured out that I wanted to pursue a doctorate in psychology. I've now been practicing as a clinical psychologist for over twenty years. I'm so glad I picked up a lot of life experience in my twenties and thirties that helped me in the ultimate direction I took. Of course, for many, it is important to get it all sorted out quicker. The good news is that college affords you the time and space to find the next steps - all in the general direction of your life's journey which could be a straight path trajectory, circuitous or a combination somewhere in between. Wishing you all the best in the long run, and allowing yourself to destress in the short run.
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Fred’s Answer

I graduated with a B.A. in Theatre. I have never directly used that in my career. After graduating, I worked in retail, became a high school teacher, worked for an airline, went back to retail, and eventually got into I.T. Some of these changes required additional school, some were all on-the-job training, and some a combination.

I've heard that the average person has 3-4 careers in their life.

So my point is that you don't have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. It will most likely change a few times in any case. Part of your undergraduate requirements will be to take a wide variety of classes to expose you to things you might not have seen otherwise. Take advantage of that. If there is something that sounds interesting, take a class in it and see if it sparks your passion.
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Collette’s Answer

Hi Jeremiah, this a very good question and it is ok to not be sure what you would like to major in. I would recommend registering as a "general studies" major. This allows you to do a little bit of every course (History, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Sociology....and so on). In fact, I initially wanted to major in Accounting, then I switched to Nursing. Neither of the two interested me the way that Psychology did. Now, I am an aspiring Psychologist.
However, if you wish to study a specific subject then resources are readily available. If Psychology interests you, there are several professions in the field.
Probation/Parole Office
Social Worker
Counselor
FBI

Or if you wish to specialize in one aspect of Psychology then you may consider:
Biopsychologist
Child & Adolescent Psychologist
Clinical Psychologist
Cognitive Psychologist
Counseling Psychologist
Developmental Psychologist
Educational Psychologist
Engineering Psychologist
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