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  • Writer's pictureSusan Treadwell

Researching Colleges? Time To Explore Your WHY

Your WHY is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you. Knowing your WHY gives you a filter to make choices -– at school, at work, at home – wherever you are in the world.

- Simon Sinek

Author and innovator Simon Sinek believes everyone needs to know their WHY. But teenagers are busy. Jam-packed spring semesters are the norm for high school juniors. Who has time to think about their WHY when there are things to do, places to go and deadlines to meet?

Exploring who you are and how you plan to contribute to a campus community is empowering. Discovering your WHY leads to clarity – for college, career and life.

Why do you want to go to college?

Here's a simple exercise to get your thoughts flowing. Use the following phrase as a guide for brainstorming why you want to go to college.

To _____________________ so that __________________________.


* To explore subjects that interest me so that I can choose a career direction that fits.

* To study computer science and machine learning so that I can positively impact the AI revolution.

* To become an expert in medical research so that I can improve children’s health on a global scale.

* To study environmental design so that I can create sustainable communities.

* To become an inspiring educator for the next generation so that they can learn and adapt to an ever-changing world.

* To study history and philosophy so that I can be prepared for law school and a professional career.

* To follow my passion for engineering and innovation so that I can become an entrepreneur.

The purpose of this exercise is to activate your thinking and connect you to the vision you may have for your future. Sometimes the picture is bright and clear – you know just what you want to do, and why.

But often, the vision is hazy. There are general areas that interest you, and nothing stands out clearly. That’s great! Just begin wherever you are.

---- We interrupt this blog post with student commentary ----

But I don't know what I want to do with my life. This is too much pressure!

It can be very challenging for teens to make choices. Whenever I teach a writing or college planning seminar, I'll ask students to share three favorite songs from their playlist. Notice that I don't ask for their all-time favorite song (too much pressure); they get to choose three. Typically, one-third of the class will struggle to contribute to this fun mini-exercise. And I've learned it's because they share a common trait: fear of making choices.

There are too many! It depends on my mood! What if I change my mind?!

This exercise is emblematic of the college process. College lists! Majors! Career paths! Start with WHY, and follow up with research. Investigate potential majors, read professional job descriptions, talk to mentors. Your brain really needs you to transform your mental images into language. So write them down or type them up. Breathe and discuss.

Then you can celebrate by blasting your favorite song.

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