While kids prepare to go back to school, some will enter at various stages and are thinking about what lies ahead. The juniors and seniors in high school, for example, are starting to think about where they want to go to college. Some of the students have had initial thoughts about what they want to do with their lives. Others know what career path they want to pursue, while still others have no idea and are not in any hurry. They may have filled out and mailed in applications already and may have based them on a variety of factors, like affordability. Attending a university, especially out-of-state, is very expensive. College students, including graduate students, now carry a heavy burden of student loan debt. According to http://www.collegedebt.com, the current student loan debt clock is at an eye-popping, $1.4 trillion and growing…
Some college kids are excited to “see the light at the end of the tunnel” with only one more year to go. Others are heading off to school for the first time where they will encounter a new culture, make new friends, toy with the thought of how much money they want to make, face temptation but hopefully learn the connection between independence and responsibility, and be challenged to attend Mass weekly. Below are five questions to ask a college student. They are:
- “What type of mindset” should you have in trying to figure out what to do with your life?” One answer is what St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). So put it on! You can have the mind of Christ if you feed it with prayer and Sacred Scripture which can aid you in what career path to take. By the way, remember to take the Bible with you to college… and read it.
- What interests you? We all have interests in doing things (playing sports, dabbling in art, caring for people, etc…). What draws you? What do you enjoy doing? Do you have a genuine joy in your heart for being in airplanes, for example, and therefore possibly have an interest in flying one someday? Is there anything that interests you to read or research that would make you want to follow up and apply it in some way? Narrow and evaluate your interests.
- What talent(s) do you have? While God blesses us with potential and abilities, He also blesses us with multiple talents. Some talents like doing well in school or working on cars may come natural. If we don’t already know our talent(s), sometimes God challenges us to discover them. We can’t discover our talent and work to develop it unless we first try and risk failure, that is with calculated risk. But we learn from our failures and mistakes as well as our sins. Maybe you are thinking about becoming a teacher. You may feel you are blessed with good people skills. You’re smart and organized. You enjoy being in the company of younger kids, and think you would like to teach elementary school. You may want to ask a teacher questions, or if you are accepted in a teaching program at school, pursue an internship to see if it’s something you like and could see yourself doing for many years to come. You may also want to read the “Parable of the Talents” in the Bible (Mt. 25:14-30, Lk. 19:12-27).
- What is God calling you to do with your life? This is the most important question and yet the most difficult to answer. God wants you and me to do something great with our lives that brings us peace, joy, and happiness. But we know it’s not that way all the time. It also involves the cross, which we are called to embrace like Jesus, knowing that the cross of suffering and pain helps us grow and learn. The cross may be your future boss, an annoying co-worker some day, moving away from the comfort zone of your family and friends, or an assignment given to you that seems to be an impossibly large task to do in unfair amount of time. The cross also helps to strengthen and mature us in the spiritual life. But when we start to ask and pray to God what he wants us to do with our lives, since he has a better plan than we do, we know we are on the right path looking to fulfill his plan; to do his will rather than ours (Mt. 26:39, Lk. 22:42).
- Are there any helpful “spiritual tools” to help you discern a career path? One helpful tool that can be used to evaluate your interests, talents, and discern what God is calling you to do with your life is to use of the cardinal virtue of prudence (The other three cardinal virtues are temperance, justice, and fortitude). Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it… The prudent man (or woman) determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment…” (Catechism 1806).
Pray to the Holy Spirit to become more prudent in your decisions that God may bless you with good judgment to choose the college, the career, and even the spouse He desires for you as well as the grace to know and do his will. Despite having different career paths, we pray that we may all take the paths that lead us to the same destination of heaven. Amen.
In Pursuit of The Path That God Has Planned for All of Us,