Life is full of big decisions, and they tend to inspire a lot of thought around this time of year as graduates accept their diplomas and plan for the road ahead. With that in mind, here’s some advice to help you along the way, from deciding where to live to deciding where to work, and so on. Of course, none of these decisions need to be made right now, but here are 10 decisions you’ll want to begin planning to tackle for yourself.
Choosing a major
If you’re graduating from high school, the first big decision you’ll probably have to make in your young adult life is which university to attend, but that might also depend on the area you’re interested in studying. Overall, uni rankings aren’t that dependable, so the more important question might be: What do you want to major in?
Explore multiple majors in your early years, consider your job prospects, and do some other detective work to make the best uni major choice you can (given the information you have at the time). It might also be worth knowing the difference in income for different college majors.
Deciding on a career
Majors and degrees often correlate with occupation, but not always (see every English major like myself who isn’t doing something directly related to English literature). Degree or not, at one point or another you’re going to have to decide what to do with your life. Network with others or look for a mentor to help you get an insider view of what working in different occupations is like. And more generally, here are the things you should consider when deciding which career path to go in.
Making a career change
Maybe it’s time to jump ship to a different, more rewarding career — which is a lot more common today than it was our parents were growing up. These are the things you should know before making the switch — not just income changes, but also whether you have the skills and experience to hit the ground running. Switching careers is a huge decision, but inspiring stories of people going to medical school in their forties or otherwise realising their calling later in life remind us that changing a career can definitely be worth it if you can focus on work you love.
Going back to school or get an advanced degree
If you’re making a career change, you might want or need to go back to school. Or you might be considering grad school to advance your career. This calculator tells you if grad school is financially worth it, and these are the things you should think about if you’re considering going back to school (in some cases, you can keep your job and attend classes at the same time — maybe even getting reimbursed for them — which makes the decision a whole lot easier.)
Figuring out where to live
Where you live can have a profound impact on your finances as well as your happiness. (The closer you live to your place of work, the better). If you have the flexibility to work from home, you’ll be better off in some cities than in others. Otherwise, check out these maps and other data to help you find the perfect place to settle down.
Renting or buying a house
For most of us, housing is our biggest expense. But should you buy a home or does renting make more sense? (Rent prices are all over the map.) Besides the difference in housing costs, you’ll need to take into consideration how long you plan on staying in a place, whether you want to customise your pad, and other emotional and financial factors.
Deciding who to date
Each individual date might not be a big deal or a big decision, but who knows if that person you ask out for the first time or say yes to dating will turn into your lifelong partner? Try to set realistic expectations when going on a first date, be careful when dating a coworker, and perhaps do some internet sleuthing to find out more about your next date. We also have a special podcast episode specifically about how to find the right partner for you.
Deciding whether to get married or not
Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself before saying yes to marriage, what I wish I had known before getting married, the secrets of the happiest couples, and the mathematical formula for deciding whom to marry. (Basically, date 38.6 per cent of the people willing to date you and then choose your partner from further dates that are better than that pool of previous dates. If only marriage was that easy.)
Deciding whether to have kids or not
Among the life-changing events, becoming a parent takes one of the top spots. It’s hard to know if having a child is a good decision for you or not, and once you’re in the trenches you’ll likely experience emotions you didn’t expect, like guilt and also incredible pride. There’s no maths formula for this one, but spending time with others’ kids could help you get a better sense if children should be in your future.
Knowing when it’s time to quit anything
Finally, even if you’ve made the best decisions possible with the information you had at the time, you’ll still have to reconsider your choices from time to time, because life is about change. Whether you need to decide on quitting a job or ending a relationship, try to take a step back and objectively ask yourself if you’re staying for the wrong reasons, like the “sunk cost fallacy,” and if there are more rewarding opportunities for you out there. (Not saying you should always question your marriage or ditch your parenting commitment, of course. Quitting in other areas is a big decision.)
This story was originally published in January 2015 and was updated on May 24, 2021 as a slideshow with new photos and information.