A client, Tim, was in his second semester of freshman year at Salem State College when his parents wanted me to meet with him. First semester passed by in a haze of parties, unfinished assignments, credit card abuse, and worst of all, a feeling of failure and being left behind. Academics had never come easily to Tim due to having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) which was diagnosed in middle school. Medication was helpful in helping Tim to focus but he still struggled with executive functioning skills like organizing, prioritizing, and time management.
The main question was should Tim quit college now or try one more semester. We discussed the pros and cons, the academic support services at school, and some major lifestyle changes that would need to be in place. Tim decided to try spring semester and to his credit he kept up with his work by making studying a priority rather than socializing. Tim had chosen business as a major but with no real passion or end-goal in mind. It was a fallback major. After two months, the discipline of attending class and doing all of that work felt increasingly meaningless.
After some coaching, Tim decided it was time to be completely honest with himself and his parents. He had wanted to try college like many of his friends, but his heart wasn’t into it. What he had always wanted was to be on the police force or perform a civic job. Tim is highly personable, social, and wants to contribute to the community. Because it is currently so difficult to get on local police forces, Tim decided to turn his sights on being an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He moved back home, enrolled in a program, and finally had a reason to get out of bed in the morning that felt true to who he was. The classes and hands-on training were challenging and exciting. He studied and did well because he was highly motivated. To make some money and start paying his parents back for the college bills, he got a job helping out in a residential facility for cognitively challenged people that is near his home. It turns out that he loves working with “his guys” as he calls them. Tim has taken the state EMT practical exam and is waiting for the results. He will then take the written portion. Because of his winning personality and newfound skills, he has a job waiting for him as soon as he passes the exams, which he is confident he will.
Before enrolling in any training program or college, be clear about your skills, interests, and values. Let them be the north star that guides you.