Tips for making important decisions in college

Illustration of a girl journaling while sitting on her bed, by Nishali Naik
Nishali Naik/File

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In college, you’re faced with a lot of different decisions. What should you major in? Where should you live? What classes should you take? How are you going to spend your summer? It can get overwhelming and feel a little impossible to decide and separate what makes sense for you from what makes sense for other people. Though there’s not always a perfect choice, here are some steps you can take to make your tough decisions feel a little easier. 

Pros and cons list

The first step to any tough choice should be making a list of pros and cons. I find that writing it out on paper can be really helpful to visualizing your choice. Make sure you consider all kinds of pros/cons, not just obvious things. For instance, if you’re deciding where you’re going to live, practical things such as cost and proximity to campus should be on your list. But don’t forget to add how you feel, whether friends will be nearby or if you’ll be close to a grocery store. Pros and cons don’t have to be practical — if you just feel really excited and don’t know why, that’s still a pro!

Journaling

If you don’t have clear feelings on your decision, try journaling! It doesn’t have to be a well-written essay: Just start writing and see what comes out. You might find that as you’re writing out some of your thoughts, your feelings become more clear. If you’re not much of a writer, you could also try some doodling or drawing or any other form of creative expression. Sometimes just clearing your mind with a less practical decision making activity can make a big difference.

Talk it out

Find someone to talk to about your choice! If things are swirling around in your mind and making you feel all over the place, it can be hard to discern what you’re actually thinking. But sometimes when you talk about it with someone, your thoughts become clear as you’re forced to explain them. Your friend or whoever you’re talking to might also be able to tell that you’re leaning a certain way, even if you can’t. Make sure to confirm whoever you’re talking to knows that it’s an important choice for you and is prepared to have a serious conversation.

Survey your friends

For more casual advice, ask your friends what they think! Though you should always make a decision that’s right for you and not based on what others think, polling others can give you a sense of what people in situations that might be similar to yours would do. Sometimes, asking your friends for advice gives them the opportunity to encourage you to do something that might be a little scary or out of your comfort zone. Moreover, your reactions to what your friends think can tell you a lot. If you find yourself angry that they all think a particular thing, maybe that’s your sign that you feel differently.

Flip a coin

Though flipping a coin can feel a little casual for big decisions, it’s also a great tool. If you flip a coin and aren’t happy with the result, that’s actually a good thing! Making a choice — or leaving that choice up to the flip of the coin — and then having the opportunity to reflect on how you feel will help you decide what you actually want. And you can always change your mind after the coin toss.

Making decisions is hard, but throughout and after college, we have to make a lot of them. Practicing decision-making skills means that the next time you’re faced with a seemingly impossible choice, you’ll be ready to think practically and trust yourself. You’re going to make the best decision for you! 

Elysa Dombro is the deputy blog editor. Contact her at [email protected].