A colleague posted the link to this article in the NY Times—about students following their passion—and I almost didn’t read it. Some words associated with college admissions, and students in general, are overused. In my opinion, two of them are “passion” and “voice”. However, when I did click on the link and read the article, I was pleasantly surprised. This was not the usual article about “following one’s passion” but a realistic look at passion and what you choose to do for a living.
The author, admittedly, is a very unusual person in that he had his pick of three very impressive career choices in his senior year of college.
“I had a job offer from Microsoft and an acceptance letter from the computer science doctoral program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I had also just handed in the manuscript for my first nonfiction book, which opened the option of becoming a full-time writer. These are three strikingly different career paths, and I had to choose which one was right for me.”
As an Independent Educational Consultant who helps students through the college admissions process, I hear the “passion” talk more often than most. On one college consortia trip I was on about a year ago, I listened as a professor went on and on about a student’s need to find his passion. It struck me as too much. Too much pressure on high school students and even college freshman to know what their passion is. But more than that, it made me feel like it was too high an expectation—that everyone have a passion and that this passion needs to manifest itself as your career. Otherwise, as Mr. Newport describes the advice given, “we’ll end up bored and unfulfilled”. I remember coming home from that trip and having this discussion with my husband. “Sometimes”, I said, “you just have to have a good job. Then you can have the means to follow other passions in your free time.” If a student has a passion for something, that is wonderful. But not every person has a passion and not every passion can become a career.
After describing his early career experiences, not all of them positive, he says, “Today, I’m a computer science professor at Georgetown University, and I love my job. The most important lesson I can draw from my experience is that this love has nothing to do with figuring out at an early age that I was meant to be a professor. There’s nothing special about my choosing this particular path. What mattered is what I did once I made my choice.
Excellent and refreshing advice.