Updated on 07.30.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Old Friends Edition

Trent Hamm

In everyone’s life, friendships blossom and then other friendships fade into the background. You move. Your interests change. Your time availability changes. Things change.

I have a lot of old friends in my life that I miss seeing regularly, but I find that when I do see them, we’ve both changed enough that whatever it was that made us friends in the first place often isn’t there.

While it may seem sad, it’s not always a bad thing. We were there for each other when we needed each other.

To Boost Your Self-Control, Ask Yourself Whether You’re an “Abstainer” or a “Moderator.” I’m mostly an abstainer, to tell the truth. If I’m passionate about something, it can be difficult for me to moderate it. (@ happiness project)

5 Steps to Get Back on Top of Things When Life is Busy I have a lot of things that I do when my life gets overly busy. A lot of it hinges on my personal energy level. (@ pick the brain)

Community versus Country Club A country club is something of a community that’s limited by the financial state of the people that come in the door. (@ barbara friedberg)

How Much Do We Owe Others? (And When Should We Walk Away?) This is never an easy question to answer. For me, I just avoid lending money to people. I’ve made gifts of money and items before, but the whole “lending” thing bothers me. (@ get rich slowly)

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  1. Katie says:

    One way to figure out what you’re interested in is to take a variety of courses, especially since even small colleges and universities offer worlds more subjects than even the best high schools. It’s completely reasonable that a college freshman might not know they want to study anthropology or political science or forestry. And we can argue about whether it should be this way, but the fact is that statistically speaking, a college degree more than pays for itself over the course of one’s career regardless of the field it’s in. I think it’s smart for incoming freshmen to choose a variety of things they think they might like then focus in later. There’s no reason you can’t try different things your first year or two and still graduate in four years, if you are careful about getting in your requirements once you do decide.

  2. Lesley says:

    I chose my college beside they encourage students to take courses in different areas, experiment, double major, etc., and they structure their system so you can graduate in four years. Thank goodness I did! I started as an architecture student and graduated as an English and Anthropology major. It only took four years, and it didn’t cost extra.

  3. Lesley says:

    That should be “because” — stupid autocorrect!

  4. valleycat1 says:

    I’m with Katie. I am a firm believer in (& product of) a liberal arts college curriculum.

    My college had a similar program for freshment & sophomores, and we weren’t even allowed to declare a major until the beginning of our junior year. I knew at 18 that I didn’t yet have a wide enough range of experiences to draw on to commit to what I wanted to be in life, and as most people have commented here before, life is full of changes.

    I’d like to see some figures on how many college students change majors at least once.

    When our child was visiting colleges as a HS junior, the admissions officers found it refreshing that she admitted not knowing what career she was seeking. Although, these days, if you go into a professional field, often the course load is pretty much set once you select it, and not starting as a beginning freshman can put you behind. However, I have known very few people who knew for certain that they wanted to be an engineer, lawyer, or some such as they headed off to school.

  5. Tracy says:

    I think not going to college just because you aren’t sure what you want to focus on is pretty terrible advice. A good part of being in college *is* figuring out what you want to do – you can get exposed to a lot of thinking and types of classes that most high schools can’t even dream of. And just having a degree is of an enormous benefit if you want any white collar job at all.

  6. Katie says:

    And just having a degree is of an enormous benefit if you want any white collar job at all

    Yeah, I think it’s hard to know precisely what career you want at 18 (for most people), but plenty of 18-year-olds know with a pretty high degree of certainty that the type of career they will want will either require or be highly facilitated by a college degree.

  7. Johanna says:

    I agree with everyone else to an extent: There’s nothing wrong with exploring new things once you get to college, and nothing wrong with changing your major (I changed mine twice). But I also agree with Trent, in that I would have been awfully uncomfortable starting college if I’d had absolutely no idea whether I wanted to study French, philosophy, forestry, or physics. For one, there’s only so much exploring you can do and still be able to graduate on time. For another, not all colleges offer all of those things, so you may need to have some idea of what you want to do to even pick a college in the first place.

    So I don’t see anything wrong with saying, “If you have absolutely no idea what you want to do, it might be worth considering whether you want to take some time to figure that out before you start shelling out lots of money for college tuition.” Auditing classes at a college close to home (if you’re lucky enough to have one) can be an inexpensive way of exploring different fields.

  8. cc says:

    @#5: True. I went to college for one major and came out with a degree in something totally different, I’m now working in that second career path and I love it (mostly). I would never have found out this career even existed if i hadn’t gone to the big presentation of all the majors, and found out I was in the wrong one. I wouldn’t have pieced that one together at starbucks.

  9. Tracy says:

    I do agree that if you have the ability to audit classes, it could be really useful if money is an issue, although there’s the counterpoint that you’re spending time and if you do figure out what you want, you may need to retake those classes for credit – and that if they’re during normal college class hours, it may be difficult to work around a job.

    Your examples are pretty funny to me, though, because that’s very similar to my own freshman course in terms of variety, precisely because I did go in as an undeclared major.

    First semester freshman year, I took chem, calc, english comp, german and a survey class that studied the philosphy, music, arts and lit of a particular era and how it was influenced by the times – it was a great experience and helpful in figuring out where I wanted to focus my efforts. I think that was actually far more useful to me than if I’d gone in ‘knowing’ what I wanted and cutting certain types of classes out before I’d even given them a shot.

    I think for me, if you don’t know if you want to study French, philosophy, forestry, or physics, (etc) than pretty much the only way to figure it out IS to try it at college, because you’re not going to find a lot of internships or jobs that expose you to such a diverse array of topics.

    On the other hand, I do wish we had more transitional/exploratory options for kids between high school and college. The system is pretty channeled into funneling kids from one to the other and I’d love it if it was pretty status quo to take a year off between for volunteering/work experience/exploring.

  10. Johanna says:

    For what it’s worth, I audited a couple of evening classes (I worked during the day) the summer before I started college. I did it because I was bored, and the classes were in the subject I already planned to major in, but I could just as easily have done it to try something new. And this wasn’t in a huge metropolitan area, so I’m thinking that similar opportunities can’t be all that uncommon.

    I guess I’m bristling a little bit at the “any degree is better than no degree, so just major in anything,” because there are a lot of careers where it does matter what your degree is in, and if there’s any chance that you’ll want one of them, you’re far better off knowing that before you get to college.

    I agree with you that it would be great to see more formal “gap year” opportunities in this country, for kids who graduate from high school and aren’t ready to start college right away.

  11. Katie says:

    I agree that formalized gap years – or perhaps more internship opportunities as part of a high school curriculum? – would be great.

    I wasn’t saying “just major in anything,” just that you don’t have to come to college knowing your major. At a certain point you have to make a decision and stick with it, but I think at most schools and for most majors, you can reasonably not decide your major till your sophomore year and still graduate on time. (Obviously, there are exceptions and if you think you might want to be pre-med, you have to start taking the classes right away. I imagine a lot of science, language, and engineering fields are like this. Or at least you have to start taking the pre-reqs right away).

    So, for instance, I knew I wanted to major in anthropology, but I still only actually took two anthro classes my first year and two my second, and I still graduated a semester early. Otherwise, I took a random assortment of things like Egyptology, economics, history, biology, etc.

  12. Courtney20 says:

    Most colleges have general education requirements anyways, outside of your major (some more than others – I went to a liberal arts college and the GenEds were basically equivalent to a second major!) So my advice would be to start there. But I think it’s a pretty rare person who has NO idea of what they’re interested in, yes? Maybe it’s different now that middle and high schools are focused on teaching the NCLB test requirements instead of actual learning and exploration…

  13. Katie says:

    (Also, to clarify – I should say that my comment that a college degree is statistically worthwhile regardless of the field was meant not to say that it didn’t matter what field you got a degree in. Rather, that it’s reasonable to be fairly sure you want a degree without yet being fairly sure what that degree will be in. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence to find the right field, just that you can know A before you know B.)

  14. Johanna says:

    “I imagine a lot of science, language, and engineering fields are like this. Or at least you have to start taking the pre-reqs right away”

    Yes, definitely. The only reason I was able to bounce around between majoring in math, chemistry, and physics was that I had AP credit for the intro classes in two of the three subjects. If I’d started college without any AP credit, having narrowed my potential major down to just those three subjects, I would have had to take all three sets of intro classes my freshman year, or risk making it very difficult to complete whichever major I eventually chose. That leaves very little room in my schedule for exploring anything else.

  15. bogart says:

    People who go to college straight from high school knowing what they want to major in worry me — there’s so much they’ve not yet been exposed to that may be what they want to do. And no, not everyone’s ready for college right out of high school, and some people come with work and/or other experience to guide them, but in general I think it’s better to arrive not knowing what you want to study. Had one of my stepkids done that, perhaps the “right” major would have been found sooner, avoiding that extra 9th semester of study.

  16. Larabara says:

    Most colleges have required classes that must be taken regardless of your major. Even undeclared or undecided majors have to take them. Students can get those classes out of the way while they are deciding on a major. Completing the required classes can take 1-2 years, which should give most students plenty of time to make a decision.

  17. Courtney20 says:

    Bogart – so the fact that I knew I liked science since about the 3rd grade, and wanted to get a PhD since middle school “worries” you? I got microscopes and chemistry sets at christmas. While everyone else was at 4H camp making potholders and learning how to swim, I was at science camp. I took every science class my high school offered.

    I DID major in science (knew what major I wanted before I ever set foot on campus) and I DID get a PhD. Some people just know what they like early on. There’s nothing worrisome about that.

  18. AnnJo says:

    Bogart, I have to agree with Courtney20: Some people just know what they like early on. And that is not necessarily from lack of exposure to alternatives. I was an obsessive, wide-ranging reader throughout my pre-college days (as well as since then), and had been exposed to many fields of study before I went to college.

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