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Mar 05 2018
by Zoe Forest

6 Ways to Find Meaning in College

By Zoe Forest - Mar 05 2018
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The routine monotony of classes, the seemingly never ending workload, the struggle to find balance between freedom and independence within an environment that still seeks to control your choices. All these aspects of college take a toll and it can be difficult to find meaning through the endless days of lectures, readings and assignments, especially if you are a freshman struggling with the search for direction and passion. In high school, the goal of college acceptance was always looming as a motivating factor to get through each day. But now, with the whole world before you, it is difficult to find the purpose of college, the reason to not just get through each day but love each day. If you find yourself going through college on autopilot, read through these tips to find purpose, meaning and passion in college. 

1. Reassess your major and/or courses


Though college is about more than academics, the end goal of the four (or more) years spent at college is a degree in your chosen major. Your major will have a huge impact on the classes you take, the people you meet and the career you will have after graduation, so naturally this is an important decision. Think long and hard about your major (or intended major), why you picked it, what excites you about it, the classes you look forward to taking. If you lack zeal when you think about your major, perhaps there is another path for you. 

You should always pick the major that will bring you, and no one else, the most joy, even if it doesn't seem lucrative to obtaining a job or if it isn't the major everyone tells you to pick. Finding the spark in what you study is crucial to having a good college experience. Naturally we will all have a few courses we aren't thrilled about, but the majority of your courses should be in fields that interest you.

2. Explore career options and set professional goals


People with goals tend to be happier as it gives them a purpose, something to constantly strive towards. After college typically comes a job, so start exploring the possible careers that interest you by attending job fairs, looking online and talking to the adults in your life. After you have found a few professions that interest you, look at what people in that field did to get where they are so you can set smaller goals to help you achieve your dream. Join a professional club on campus, look out for internships, volunteer or find other resume builders. 

3. Connect with the people around you


The biggest factor in happiness is the quality and, to some extent, the quantity of your relationships with the people around you. Don't let grades and clubs distract you so that you forget to seek out quality interactions with the people in your dorms, your roommates, the people in your classes and your professors. You will feel happier and more fulfilled when you slow down and appreciate those around you. 

4. Seek out role models on and off campus


Struggling with meaning in college can often lead to stagnation or being unsure about your path. If you feel stuck or lost in life, seek out people you admire and find what it is that you like about them. Perhaps you love certain characteristics about a professor or envy the leadership abilities of a club president. Maybe there is a leader of a local nonprofit you find particularly admirable. Get to know these people and make steps to grow more like them. Feeling development and growth in your professional and personal life will help you feel meaning in your life. 

5. Find something you are passionate about and get as involved as possible


College is about much more than academics. If your classes fail to interest you or grades are no longer a top priority, seek out clubs or organizations, either on campus or off, that you are passionate about and get as involved as possible. Perhaps it will be volunteering or debating or online writing or any number of interests. This will greatly increase your happiness and sense of purpose as you know you are contributing to something you care about. 

6. Examine your priorities


College is the gateway to the rest of your life, the time to gain independence and explore who you want to be. There are so many things to focus on, from academics to clubs to people. Really think about your priorities. What is most important to you? Is excelling in your classes still the most important thing on your mind? Dedicate more time to learning and getting everything you can out of a class. Are you happiest when you are with your friends? Then focus on being the best friend you can be and reaching out to others. Is there something else that drives your passion, that you just can't live without? Focus on that. Decide what is most important to you and prioritize it. 

Finding meaning in college is all about self-reflection, deciding what you want in life and chasing after that. It is also okay if you still don't know what you want in life as college is the best time for self-exploration. If you find yourself counting down the days until summer or struggling to make it through the hours, take a step back and think about what will make you happy and what will make you treasure each magical day you get to spend at college. 

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Zoe Forest - University of California, Berkeley

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