Decision making can be a challenge for people at just about any stage of life, but for students and those preparing to embark on their careers, it can take on a special significance. Students at colleges and universities often find themselves facing a variety of monumental choices, many of which have the potential to impact the projection of their professional lives.
Students may find themselves regularly reevaluating conclusions that they previously came to, such as doubting the majors they chose initially. Nearly a third of students report that they change their college majors at least once, clearly indicating the prevalence of reconsidering and changing past important commitments.
Making quality choices, which can help you achieve the life outcomes that you want, is a skill that students will want to carefully nurture. Building better decision-making skills now can help you learn how to carefully evaluate all of the different factors that impact your choices and make the selection that best fits your life.
The 5 steps in the decision-making process
The five-step decision-making process outlined below will take you through the stages of consideration so that you can reach the choice that fits you and your lifestyle best. By walking your important academic and career-based selections through these steps, you will gain a clearer picture of the different potential outcomes and how they can impact you.
As a student, you may find yourself using this process to carefully evaluate a variety of different types of decisions. Your academic career will include important resolutions such as:
- Where you want to go to school
- The major and potentially minor you want to pursue
- Whether to enter the workforce immediately or pursue graduate-level degrees
- The types of internships to pursue
- The classes to select
- The jobs to apply for
The various choices available can seem overwhelming and endless.
Fortunately, as you go through this process several times, you will also find that it slowly becomes easier to make these types of decisions. You will become accustomed to the steps and the considerations that go into making quality commitments and how the different choices impact your desired outcomes. Making difficult selections will become more methodical and logical and less overwhelming, which will benefit you for the rest of your life.
Step 1. Know what you want to achieve
As you look at the options in front of you, consider first what you want to achieve. Your long-term goals should help inform your choices as a student, from what you select as a major to where you apply for internships and jobs.
Concretely state where you would like to be in five or ten years, and how the different alternatives in front of you can help you get there. Give yourself an overview of the different options available and how the choice you need to make can impact your ability to reach your various professional and personal goals.
Many students, who can feel immense pressure as they realize the importance of these commitments, find it helpful to speak about their long-term goals and the options in front of them with trusted friends or advisors. Others may find it helpful to write out their lines of thinking, including what they want to achieve and the role of their current question on that journey, to help them qualify their thoughts. Gathering thoughts together through speaking about the choice or writing them down makes it easier to quantify precisely the role that this decision will play.
Step 2. Gather your relevant information
Once you have outlined your precise goal and the problem in front of you, it becomes time to gather relevant information. As a student considering your educational options or future career path, there are a variety of different resources and guides you can use to help you pull together these details.
- Speak with a student advisor.
Advisors, student counselors, or mentors from a particular field can all provide valuable information about the decision at hand. They can help you learn more about how the question before you might influence your future plans. They can give you more information about your options, the types of jobs that you might become qualified for based on internships or majors, and their own experiences and advice based on your stated goals.
- Gather data and information.
A wealth of information exists online about the education and experience of different professionals, providing insight into how they reached their unique position. If you have a particular career path you want to follow, gather information about how others have achieved similar goals and how those align with your current decision.
- Do a self-assessment to see how well the different options fit you.
Consider your study habits, your other obligations, your personality, and how well the different alternatives fit your particular needs.
Step 3. Consider your various outcomes
Armed with this important information about the different alternatives involved in the question at hand, start to imagine how the different outcomes might play out for you. See how well the different situations fall in line with the goals that you outlined during your initial step.
You might find it helpful to make a physical list of pros and cons for each of the different options and situations you have outlined. Write down the possible results and opportunities that different selections might offer you and evaluate each one based on your personal desires. It might be helpful to speak about this list with a trusted advisor or mentor who can help you further develop your ideas about the benefits and drawbacks of each of the different possibilities.
Step 4. Make your decision
Once you have taken the time to outline your goals, gather your information, and then evaluate your different possibilities, the time has come for the most important step in the decision-making process. Now you want to make your actual choice about the question at hand.
Although this is the critical step, it can feel intimidating. Therefore, begin by eliminating the different alternatives and scenarios that simply do not line up with your goals and desires. Once you have narrowed down the list, at some level, you will need to go with your instincts. Ask yourself:
- Which decision aligns best with who I am?
- Which decision will help me achieve my personal and professional goals?
- Which decision ‘feels’ the best for me and seems to fit in the easiest with the future that I picture for myself?
By answering these questions, you should find yourself able to make a final decision to your question.
If you find yourself struggling with this choice, consider making a commitment that aligns best with your ideas, and then stepping away from the process for a few days. Let your mind go over your new resolution and see if you begin to become more comfortable with the idea, or if you find yourself becoming increasingly unhappy with your final choice. You can then use this process to finalize your selection and comfortably move forward knowing that you made the decision that was best for you.
Step 5. Evaluate your decision
Once the resolution has been made, you still want to carefully evaluate the outcomes you achieve. Calculate for yourself how this commitment has impacted your life and your ability to achieve your goals.
It can feel tempting to disregard this last step, but every student should be sure to go through this evaluation process. It will help you better understand your personal ability to evaluate your different options and how well your decision-making process will help lead you to your goals.
This evaluation process might be a step that you find yourself regularly doing over a long period of time. It might not be possible to understand how well your choices help you achieve what you want to accomplish right away. You might need to regularly revisit your decisions and their outcomes throughout your time as a student and even into the beginning of your career.
This process, however, will make it easier for you to make future determinations as you gain a better appreciation and understanding of how your different verdicts impact the long-term outcomes in your professional and personal life. Future decisions that you evaluate and make will be influenced by these earlier choices. The better you understand the outcome of these initial selections, the easier it will be to make the optimal decisions moving forward.
Making the decision yourself
As you progress through your higher education, you will encounter many different decisions that will guide you throughout your schooling and your career. The impact of these commitments necessitates careful thought and consideration as you determine the best course of action for you.
The better you understand how to go through this five-step process carefully and methodically, the easier it will be to make the resolutions that benefit you best and set you up for the future that you dream about. As you prepare to make these important choices, carefully go through the above steps to keep you focused on the outcome of your decision.
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