A Conscious College Decision
Making your final college decision feels like a really important and difficult decision. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably struggling to decide what you’d like to study, or you know someone who is.
Some high school students know exactly what they want: they know exactly what subjects they’re interested in, and exactly what jobs they want to have. These students wouldn’t struggle to make their final college decision. Other high school students aren’t so sure, and that’s perfectly okay too.
Here are five tips for deciding what to study at university:
1 – Pray Istikharah
Think of this as your most powerful tool in your college-decision kit. Perform two rak’ahs of supererogatory prayer, and recite the Prayer of Guidance.
Despite what many people may think, the answer to your Istikhara prayer doesn’t have to come in a dream. It could be a strong gut feeling to pick a certain course, or it could be the way things unfold on your college application journey. For example, if you are continually faced with obstacle upon obstacle in applying for a certain course, then it could be a negative answer to your Istikhara. On the other hand, if applying for a certain course is a simple and straightforward process, then that is positive answer to your Istikhara.
When the drop of (semen) remains in the womb for forty or fifty (days) or forty nights, the angel comes and says: My Lord, will he be good or evil? And both these things would be written. Then the angel says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And both these things are written. And his deeds and actions, his death, his livelihood; these are also recorded. Then his document of destiny is rolled and there is no addition to nor subtraction from it.” -Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) as reported by Hudhaifa b. Usaid (Sahih Muslim)
Trust in the Decree of Allah. He already has your destiny written out for you, and you are already in the best of hands. Combine this knowledge with your own effort, and inshaAllah, you will find yourself in the most suitable college course for you. Trust in Allah, and trust in the process, even if it takes time.
2 – Think of your end goals and your temperament
What kind of career do you see yourself thriving in? Are you an introvert, who prefers quiet work in solitude? Or are you more of an extrovert, who enjoys working in teams and in an open-plan office? Or do you prefer being outdoors, and working at different sites far away from an enclosed office?
Answering such questions will help you make a final college decision. It always helps to work with your temperament instead of against it. You can use your college application journey as a way to get to know yourself better. Spend some time reflecting about what kind of career path could bring out your best work and study qualities.
Do you want to work to earn a significant amount of money to support your family? Or do you want a more community-focused career, with less financial gain?
3 – Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses
What kinds of subjects do you enjoy at school? Do you enjoy studying the humanities, like History and English? Maybe your career path lies in teaching those subjects. If you enjoy the subjects like Biology, then maybe your career paths lies in something science-oriented.
Which subjects do you struggle with at school? If Math is your weakness, then a career as an accountant is probably not a good idea. If you feel weak at the sight of blood, then being a doctor wouldn’t be a great idea either. Our weaknesses teach us as much as our strengths, if not more. You can also think about your struggles as a growth point for you, even if it may not be an actual path to a career.
If you enjoy both the STEM subjects as well as the humanities, then a double degree could be an option for you. It helps to keep your options open, especially while applying for jobs after graduating.
4 – Speak to your parents and guidance counselor
Many parents have a very good idea about the kinds of interests and job prospects that suit their children. When parents are connected with their children, then they can help narrow down what kinds of profession would suit them. It helps to discuss your college application with your parents. Try to keep an open mind to their suggestions, even if you initially disagree.
Other parents have very fixed ideas about what their children ought to study at uni. This could happen when parents themselves did not go to college, or have some other version of an unfulfilled college dream. In this case, it’s difficult for them to let go of their hope that their artistically-inclined child must become a doctor, lawyer or engineer. If your college hopes align with your parents’, then alhamdulilah, you’re in luck. If you want to study something that your parents disagree with, then it could be tricky. Arranging a meeting for your parents and guidance counselor could help them see your point of view.
Speaking to your school’s guidance counselor about your college decision is another option for you to figure out what to study in college. They’re trained to help you work out a solution, and to work with your abilities. A good guidance counselor can help you empower yourself with information and reassurance. If your school doesn’t offer this service, you can talk to one at your local community or junior college.
5 – Know you can always change your mind
Upon making your college decision, please know that you can always change your college major, and even your degree. Often, the lived experience, including making mistakes, is the best way to grow. Changing your mind isn’t the end of the world, and it could end up being the start of a better one for you.