The other day, I experienced something for the first time in my entire academic career. A professor, addressing all of the graduating seniors in my biology program, said that it’s important to “do what makes you happy” when pursuing a career. That’s something I’ve always kept in mind. It’s what my parents have been telling me since I decided I wanted to be a forensic scientist in elementary school. It’s what they continued to tell me when I moved on to dreams of becoming a veterinarian in middle school. I’ve always had strong feelings about what I wanted to do with my life, because I’m absolutely miserable if I’m not ultimately working toward something that I want. But, I know not every one of my classmates has had the same experience. Some graduating seniors still don’t know what they want to do in terms of a future career.

This made me wonder: shouldn’t students be hearing this advice? Not just once, in passing, during a seminar a few weeks before graduation, but early in their education, and often. Should a young person be able to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to pursue an education without being told that it’s important to be happy? I think there’s something inherently wrong with a system that can allow people, at such a formative time in their lives, to lose sight of one of the most important guiding principles in leading a successful, productive life.

That’s just my two cents. I’d love to hear what others think.

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3 thoughts on “Do What Makes You Happy

  1. I think so many students don’t know what will make them happy so they just choose a major. This is definitely not a great idea, it can be a real waste of money and time. I think high schools need to expose students to different disciplinary fields much earlier than senior year. Offer classes that are a bit out of the ordinary to see if they can spark interest!

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    1. That’s a good point. And I think we really neglect helping students identify what kinds of academic and career pursuits suit them. It’s no good pretending everyone can cure cancer. Some people will be happier doing absolutely anything else, and will make a bigger impact on the world through that something else, simply because they love it and do it well.

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