On the Right Path

By John Bernstein on September 02, 2013
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The fall of one’s senior year is a crucial, confusing time period. It seems as if everyone and their mother has a plan for what they want to do with the rest of their lives, a game plan for what it’s going to take to set themselves up for these opportunities and a substantial drive in even the most unmotivated students to enact that game plan.

Many have been getting involved in their future fields for years, making connections, gaining experience. They’re all ready to take the plunge in either the collegiate or working world. Everyone, that is it seems, except for you.

Investment in my future

I know for a fact that was me. I was about 90 percent sure I wanted to start studying human interaction and the brain in September 2009, yet hadn’t even stuck my toe in the gigantic pool of psychological research that seemed to grow bigger and more daunting by the day.

If someone asked me why I chose the field, I could manage a word soup-like response that included such phrases as “studying raw emotions” and “observing human interactions.” I was the aimless guy without a clue of what to do next.

I was certain of only one thing: college. It would take more than basic statistics and an introduction to psychology class to reach anything close to the professional level I wanted to operate at within the field some day. I was going to make the most of my career and, in my case, that meant tacking on more years in school.

Looking back, I know that the decision I made was at the same time simple and complex. The majority of the students in my graduating class attended a four-year college directly after high school, and in that sense it could be said I was just doing what was expected of me when I chose to attend Rochester.

Yet I wasn’t simply going through the motions. My decision to commit the next four years (and maybe more) of my life was a statement; a commitment to my development as a student and person and an investment in what I believe to be a bright future.

Happy with my decision

My choice has only been validated in my time here. In the past months alone, I decided to add a second major, brain and cognitive sciences, an area of study only a select few schools offer that combines the real-world applications of psychology with the behind-the-scenes action of neuroscience, and a philosophy minor.

My professors and fellow students were the primary reason I decided to branch out into these other areas of study and I’m sure I would’ve had neither the desire nor motivation to delve deeper into the subjects if it weren’t for them.

There is little doubt in my mind that if I rewound my life two years (give or take a month) into the past and could do everything again, be it deciding whether to apply to college, choosing schools to apply to or electing where to attend, I would end up sitting in the exact same chair I’m sitting in now, on the top floor of a nine-story high-rise overlooking the Genesee River and facing the Rochester city skyline.

I would be writing this same article I am now, in the hopes that a reader might take my experiences and interpret them in a way that will influence their own post-high school plans for the better.

When it comes to deciding my post-high school plans, I would’ve done only one thing differently: how I handled myself during that seemingly fated, end-all first semester of senior year. If I could’ve simply taken a step back from the pressure and stress that those few months annually deliver, I might have been able to enjoy the college application process more.

Deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life is a big choice. It’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but neither should it be feared; it should be embraced.


About the Author

John Bernstein

John Bernstein

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