Five Unique Tips for Gaining New Perspectives on College
This past weekend was great on so many levels!
Not only did I get to spend time with my sister and kids in one of my favorite places, but also a bit of inspiration struck – and I’m really excited to share it with you.
First a little context on my moment of inspiration…
On Saturday we paid a visit to the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland. It is such a beautiful place that we often spend the entire day on the valley floor; hiking, roasting sausages, and gazing up at the colorful paragliders and some of the most scenic mountains you could ever imagine.
But this time, because it was my sister’s first visit to the area, we decided to take the gondola all the way up to the top of the Schilthorn. On a clear day the views from the summit are incredible and you can’t help but ask yourself why you would ever stay rooted in the valley.
So as I stood staring out across the landscape one of my favorite quotes (from motivational speaker Jim Rohn) popped into my head. It goes like this:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn
I plan to write an entire post on this quote because I think it represents and incredibly important consideration, but for now it is important to mention because it led me to contemplate the role of perspective in the college search process.
Though it is usually unconscious, those around us constantly influence our views on the world – sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. And that can have a significant impact on how we think about everything from choice of clothes to college.
In the same way I root myself in the beauty of the valley and forget about the scenery above; we all tend to get locked into the set of conventional wisdom, ideas and choices that surround us each day. This can be a great thing as those views are often based on generations of trial and error, but in doing so we also risk limiting ourselves to a set of pre-packaged choices made by others.
Halfway to the Schilthorn summit!
So I always try to encourage my clients and blog readers to make an intentional effort to “think beyond” their current world; especially in the early stages of college exploration. Even if they have firm beliefs about what they want, I still urge them to throw a few wild cards into the mix if for no other reason than to test their convictions.
The point is to challenge ourselves to make sure we are truly choosing our investment from the full range of possibilities, and not simply accepting our surrounding and/or being sold on one of those colorful packages I talked about in the post on college as an investment.
But this can be a hard thing to do. How do you think outside the box if you’re not even sure you’re in one? In a world of busy schedules, financial considerations, and near infinite possibilities, how can a student practically and strategically rise above the valley floor to gain new perspectives?
Here are a few outside the box suggestions:
Listen to Podcasts: About two years ago I discovered podcasts and since then they have become a daily staple. When I listen to podcasts I immediately gain access to new perspectives, ideas and strategies and, thus far, the results have been amazing. I tend to listen to Jonathan Fields, Rich Roll, and Pat Flynn because their personal stories, subject matter, and guests inspire me; and I encourage you to find your inspiration. It doesn’t have to be a podcast about college, and it’s probably best that it’s not. You can find a podcast dedicated to almost any topic, from math to scrapbooking, so pick one that interests you and immediately expand your “reach”. If you don’t know where to begin with finding a podcast, I think Jonathan Fields’ “Good Life Project” is a great place to start. He talks to accomplished individuals from all walks of life (authors, artists, athletes, etc.) about what they believe makes a good life. You get great insight into careers, locations and life perspectives.
Extend Your Social Media: We all use social media (probably too much!) from Instagram and Pinterest, to Twitter and Snapchat, but we sometimes forget how powerful those tools are. The way we tend to use them they end up becoming an extension of our existing social network rather than a means through which to gain perspective and extend our reach. So I challenge you to use your social media accounts to link into new perspectives and people. Even join a new social media channel with this sole purpose. My husband and I tried this a few years ago. We created a Twitter account, not for communicating with friends, but to create a feed of new ideas and people. We seldom tweeted ourselves; we simply followed a handful of inspirational thought-leaders as they delivered us a constant feed of new perspectives.
Take a Trip: Remember this is about creating new perspectives, not visiting the lake house; so whether you go with friends or family, plan a trip to see something completely new. And don’t just sit at the beach either (though you can do that too); try to really experience a new place. Eat lunch in the center of town, talk to some of the locals, practice a campus visit at a local university you’ll likely never attend. The idea is to see and experience something different and be aware of your reactions. Growing up on Long Island I thought I could never live away from the ocean, that is, until my husband dragged me to the Rocky Mountains for the first time!
Reach Out: Do you know someone living in a completely different part of the country? A cousin, friend, or perhaps a friend-of-a-friend? Reach out to them and share perspectives. Set up a regular call or email schedule and share your thoughts on the college process. It’s not about convincing each other, or chatting about your social life, it’s simply about sharing the experience with an unbiased mind that is also working through the same process. I know that it may feel a bit awkward at first, but just treat it like a study group; you can even have a pre-made set of questions or do it via email. It’s a great way to learn new tips and tricks and you never know when something that the other person takes for granted may blow your mind!
Attend an Event: I love the idea of spending a week away from home on a college campus meeting new people and studying interesting topics. I’m a huge fan of science camps, computer camps, sports camps, etc. Just getting outside your normal environment and interacting with new people can change so much. Obviously camps can cost a lot of money, so if that’s not an option for you, there are other ways to get a similar experience for less money (or even free). You can sign-up for a Habitat for Humanity project for example. The goal is to put yourself in a different setting, away from your best friends, where you can interact with other students who are going through the same process. And don’t be shy! Use the opportunity to learn and share ideas and perspectives!
Okay, that’s all for today. I really hope you find some of these suggestions useful and make an effort to put them into practice. I know it is difficult to put yourself outside your comfort zone, or skip the extra steps (especially “Reach Out”), but I promise the feeling that comes with a great college choice is worth the little bit of extra effort today. As always, if you found this post helpful please share it using the buttons on the left.
Until the next post – keep smiling! You’ve got this!