Pastor John on Choosing a College

One of the challenges of young adulthood (I’m thinking here of high school juniors to mid-20-somethings) is that you are required to make some of the biggest decisions of your life, that will have the longest reaching effects in your life, at the time when you have the least wisdom and experience in your life. 

So it is no wonder that young people agonize over major life decisions: 

Where should I go to college?
What should I study?
What kind of career should I pursue?
Where should I live?
Where should I go to church?

Recently, the Ask Pastor John podcast featured a question that answers one of these questions but offers wisdom for them all: How should I choose a college major?

How does this work at Trinity College? In one sense, choosing a major at Trinity is simple, since we only offer a major in Liberal Arts. I would love to say, “Problem solved!”, but all we’ve really done is kicked the problem down the road a bit. A liberal arts major at Trinity College opens the door to all kinds of future options and opportunities, so at some point, you will have to decide

At Trinity College, we want to help students become good deciders (I know, it doesn’t seem like that should be a word), so we devote substantial class time to learning the skills that Pastor John describes above. In Practical Theology class, we introduce the concept of “vocation,” learning what it means that God has callings for your life—more than one at a time; some of which are lifelong and some of which may change. Students who stay beyond the Bridge Year for one of our longer programs will begin taking classes in the Center for Christian Vocation, which are specialized and semi-independent studies in fields like Education, Business, Counseling, Music, Writing, and more. 

But that brings us back to the question: how do I choose a major?

John Piper’s answer is thorough, full of insight and wisdom. He starts with “five observations about education”:

  1. First, most of the world does not have access to the kind of education assumed in the question about choosing a major. 
  2. Second, even in developed countries like America where higher education exists, only about 62 percent of high school graduates go to college.
  3. Third, for those who do go to college, the choices are very many. There are huge universities with hundreds of majors.
  4. Fourth, we should always remember that a decision at age seventeen about college or major or vocation does not mean you will have the same job for a lifetime. The average American changes careers three to seven times in a lifetime.
  5. Fifth, there is no sure connection between choosing a major and earning a certain level of income over a lifetime. 

Then, “five guidelines for choosing a major”: 

  1. Aim at God’s glory.
  2. Pursue personal holiness.
  3. Consider your gifts.
  4. Ponder your desires.
  5. Pay attention to needs.

Those five points are good advice for any big decision, but are especially helpful for young people contemplating college and choosing a major. He concludes with this advice: 

So, those are my five guidelines for choosing a major, choosing a vocation, or thinking about the future of your life and how to spend your time so as not to waste it. And as you ponder them, do it in this way: Be saturated continually with the Bible. Be embedded in a healthy church that counsels you, surrounds you, helps you recognize who you are and know what your gifts are. And finally, be continually in prayer. God won’t let you waste your life if you seek him like this.

I love Piper’s confidence that if you ask, the Lord will answer. Indeed he will! And at Trinity College, we are eager to help students ask the questions and learn to discern how God answers. 

Read or listen to the complete episode of Ask Pastor John: “How Should I Choose A College Major”