October 23

Empowering Choice

By Noah Hoff

Imagine yourself, for a moment, going on a picnic in a new country. Packed with all your supplies, you set out to meet your guide. You find them waiting at a crossroads. Behind them are countless sprawling paths, each stretching out to meet the lush nature beyond. From where you stand their destinations are obscured yet each is ripe with promise; you look to your guide for help. You tell her what you are looking for: a nice quiet place with a beautiful view. She assures you she knows the perfect spot, and, with a smile, is off down one of the paths, beckoning you to follow. You hike on the worn dirt until sunlight gives way to shade and the path grows narrow and winding, stretching upward through windswept pines. Soon you reach a clearing on a peak where the trees break to frame a verdant forest painting a tall, spanning valley. The guide leaves you to your picnic. The view is spectacular and it is quiet enough, but as you rest your feet and unpack your bag, the wind begins to chill, the ground hard beneath. You can’t help but wonder where the other paths might have taken you. 

Now, imagine you are back at that same crossroads, describing again your hopes for your picnic. But this time, instead of taking the lead herself, she begins to describe each path, what she knows, and what awaits at each end. Armed with information, you set off. The first path you head down leads you to a mossy clearing nestled deep in the woods. The air is still and meditative, the only sound the rustling of leaves, but with naught a view but the endless oaks, you head back from where you came, in search of a better path. The next trail you embark on leads to a waterfall, whose crystal water splashes on the rocks to mix with the sun in a hazy shifting rainbow. The sight beautiful but the noise deafening, you head back once again. However, your next path leads you to a meadow. The clearing stretches wide before you, soft grass peppered with wildflowers nestled between a great forest, only dwarfed by the mountains rising to meet the sun. Finally, you sit, and have your perfect picnic. Making the right choice is not always easy and will take consideration and can take time. However, with patience and knowledge, one can use the resources at their disposal to forge their own path, and find the place that is right for them. 

Life is a stream of decisions, small and large. Whether deciding what to eat at a restaurant or planning the next big step in life, choice is unavoidable, and this is especially true for high school students. As the next phase of their lives looms, post secondary planning can be a difficult, overwhelming process and it is common for students to feel indecisive about their next step and look for guidance. According to a study published in the Journal of Counselling Psychology by Germeijs, Verschueren, and Soenens, this “indecisiveness [does] not turn out to be a risk factor for students’ awareness of the need to make a decision and motivation to engage in the career decision process” (407). Students remain undeterred and will still make a decision in this situation. Furthermore, a study published in the College and University Journal which covers how high school seniors construct decision-making strategies for choosing colleges, found that “students use less complex decision making strategies to select colleges, not because it is better to do so but because it may be simpler and more comfortable” (26). These studies show the difficulty in this decision making process for the students, highlight their motivation and need to engage despite limited personal skills and strategies, and make an unhealthy reliance on input from others understandable. It also gives clearer insight into potentially better ways to help them. 

In order for proper guidance and preparation to make a significant impact on a student’s preparedness for postsecondary decisions, it must strengthen a student’s decision making ability: a necessary life skill. Guidance must have an emphasis on education and resource provision and a problem based context or component; it involves helping students develop decision-making skills, rather than helping them make decisions. As stated in the paper The Educating of Students’ Decision Making Competence in the Problem Based Learning Context: Facing the Perspective of the Contemporary Knowledge Society, “the school and parents task is not to be a decision maker, even with the best knowledge, of what the child or the society needs, but to be the best enabler of student autonomy, providing the competence for making the decision” (www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00003289.htm). Moreover, according to A Taxonomy of Difficulties in Career Decision Making published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, the working world is becoming increasingly dynamic with an increase in the number of career transitions people make in their lifetime, so dealing with choice and tackling change are more important skills than ever (510).

Building-U embraces the idea of informing decision-making skills by empowering choice for young adults. Whatever a student’s postsecondary plans may be, building-U provides the resources for them to not only build a framework for postsecondary decisions, but develop skills that can serve them well for a lifetime.


  1. Gati, Itamar, et al. “A Taxonomy of Difficulties in Career Decision Making.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, vol. 43, no. 4, 1996.
  2. Germeijs, Veerle, et al. “Indecisiveness and High School Students’ Career Decision-Making Process: Longitudinal Associations and the Mediational Role of Anxiety.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, vol. 53, 2006.
  3. Govan, George V., et al. “How High School Students Construct Decision-Making Strategies for Choosing Colleges.” College and University, vol. 81, 2006.
  4. Siauciukeniene, Liuda; “The Educating of Students’ Decision Making Competence in the Problem Based Learning Context: Facing the Perspective of the Contemporary Knowledge Society.” University of Leeds, Education-Line, 27 Oct. 2003, www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00003289.htm.