You have worn that cap and gown. Maybe you will be leaving home soon. There are many things on your mind concerning your future. You are making choices that could have consequences for the rest of your life. Some young people already know what they want to do, while others are still trying to figure things out. For some, college is another four years of time and expense. You have only one life to live and you want to do your best in getting it right the first time around. What is the best "fit" for your life? How can you put it to the best use? Ephesians 5:15-17 says to walk wisely, make the most of your time, and understand what the will of God is for your life.
What is the answer to all of this? I do not have all of the answers but I am going to make some suggestions. Some of these suggestions are going to go against the grain of traditional thinking-things that you have been conditioned to believe all of your life growing up that, quite frankly, are not working well in some cases. However, before you write me off please read the entire article.
WHAT NOT TO DO
One, do not rush off into college unless you have a clear focus as to why you are going. You've just completed 12 years of school, for crying out loud. Give yourself a break! People like to tell you that if you do not go to college right out of high school you may never get a college degree. That is not necessarily the case. People also like to tell you that everyone should go to college because it will make you more successful in life. Does going to college guarantee success? No. Many people who have never been to college are very successful. Is college for everyone? Again, no, it is not. If college is a requirement for pursuing one's dream in life, then go to college. Is it really true that if you do not go to college right out of high school then you will never go? No. If a person has a dream in life that requires a college education, he or she will still go, even if it is later in life, because people who have dreams and passionate goals for their lives will do whatever is necessary to fulfill that dream. Many people today are going to college right out of high school but then they can't find a job in their chosen major or several years later discover that they really do not like their work.
Another thing to consider is this: Why pay tens of thousands of dollars just to go to a big name prestigious university if you don't have to, unless you have a scholarship, when you can go to a state university for a whole lot less, and still receive a quality college education. People are controlled too much by status among their peers. You can also cut costs by attending a community college for the first 2 years. If you end up having to pay off a huge college debt when you graduate it could be your own fault.
Many high schools do not give students thorough and intense vocational counseling. They have only several counselors for hundreds of students. Much more time and focus needs to be given in our schools in this area. High schools also make too big of a deal over the SAT. If you bomb the SAT, it is no big deal. Enroll in a community college for the first 2 years, where they don't require the SAT, maintain a good GPA, transfer to a state university, and you are done with college. That is what happened to me, that's what I did, and I thumbed my nose at the SAT.
Two, if you are a Christian reading this, don't try to figure out God's will for your life. It might be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and can turn out to be very frustrating and confusing. God's general will for all believers is clearly stated in the Bible. There are places that specifically use the words, "this is God's will for you." Just read his Word and do it, and you will be in God's general will. God's specific willl for you will be discussed in the next section.
Three, do not be too quick to get married, and guess what, there is no such thing as only one right person for you, and there is no such thing as love at first sight, so don't get frustrated over it. Be sure that you are emotionally mature enough to get married and you have sought to find out as much as possible about the other person, especially any unresolved hurts or issues from their past that could be brought into a marriage. Rather than seeking the "only one right person" it is better to make sure that you have a heart right toward God, and that you have a desire and some knowledge to treat the other person right. By the way, did you know that love is not based upon a feeling; it is based upon a conscious decision of the will. Don't just settle for 1 or 2 sessions of pre-marital counseling and take a compatibility test.
Also, do it right, by not living together before marriage and not having children out of wedlock. I hate to tell you this, but the divorce rate among people in their twenties is very high.
Four, don't choose a profession based ONLY on how much money it pays. If you do not enjoy it or it is not a good "fit" for you, what is the point? Many people are not happy in their jobs. You want a profession where you will look forward to going to work every morning.
Five, do not make decisions about ministry like you would a secular vocation. For ministry you need a divine directive of God, and money must not be the defining factor. Notice, I did not use the word "calling." That word is tossed around as part of religious jargon while many Christians could not define what it means. You hear Christians say all of the time that they feel called to some ministry. I wonder what kind of feeling they have? I recently heard on a radio station that if you are trying to decide whether to go into the ministry or take a secular job, do NOT go into the ministry. In other words, if you do not have a CONFIRMED directive of God then don't do it. It can prove to be a big mistake if you go into ministry, just based on some feeling, and not a confirmation based on your spiritual giftedness, what other people notice in you, and open doors of opportunity.
Six, there are companies out there that try to have college students take out credit cards, before they even have jobs. Don't fall for that utter nonsense! Do you want to have a black mark on your credit report right out of college? While we are on the subject of credit cards, do not have more than 1, maybe 2 at the most.
WHAT TO DO
One, even if you do not go to college pursue a career path, not just a job. You want something that will provide a decent income and give you an opportunity to advance higher if you choose to do so.
Two, if you do not know what you are passionate about doing with your life take some time off to reflect, dream, and to assess your strengths, abilities, and desires. Ask yourself some questions. What kind of profession do you believe you are most suited for, would enjoy, and would experience success at? Then begin to do the necessary things to make it happen. DREAM FIRST, then if college is necessary to help fulfill your dream, go to college. Have some dream sessions. What do you visualize yourself doing in 10 or 20 years? Begin to develop a vision for your life. Take some days off now and then with no cell phone or other distractions.
Three, if you are a Christian, pray and read God's wisdom about how He can best use your life, to make maximum use of your abilities and gifts. If you are truly seeking His wisdom and guidance, God will not allow your life to be wasted. Do what you have a burning desire and passion to do, to contribute to building the Kingdom of God. This is his specific will for you. For example, God's will for me is to help build his Kingdom through speaking and writing. I began using it for God, people said I am gifted in this area, and it has been blessed by God all around the world. Apply the teaching of Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct your paths." And while we are on the subject of Proverbs, it is a great book to read for getting practical day to day wisdom. It comes right after Psalms.
You have your whole life ahead of you. Don't be in a hurry to get settled in a career or marriage. Take your time. Think things through. Take as much time as necessary. It is much better to get settled with a career and marriage a little later in life than to have to do it over again later. I believe each person is accountable before God as to how we use our life. Try to focus your time, money, gifts, and desires, to glorify God and go down the path he has for you. If you are a Christian you should seek to be a good steward of your time, money, and abilities. Avoid waste of your resources; consult God first, before you move ahead with your life. Whether you are a Christian or not, I hope this is some good practical wisdom that you might consider in making the most of your life the first time around.