Consider the following example as it relates to this week’s topic.
The other day, I was talking with a parent (not a patient of mine) about their daughter applying to college. The daughter has a very specific career path that she wants to pursue and will be heartbroken if she isn’t accepted into one of the top programs that will set her up for direct access to the career of her dreams. The mother believes that her daughter needs to have a backup plan, as in a completely different career direction, in case she doesn’t get into one of these top programs.
Like that parent, I am a strong believer in having a Plan B. However, I believe that backup plans can come in many different shapes and sizes and can sometimes mean taking a very different path to the same or similar goal. To that end, I offered this parent some alternative backup options.
Perhaps Plan B could be thinking outside the box to identify a different, possibly less direct or less common route, to the same career goal rather than having to abandon the daughter’s dream career for a completely different, safer one. You can only imagine how deflated the daughter might feel as she nears her high school graduation realizing that she is about to head down a career path that neither inspires nor excites her.
Brainstorming New Opportunities
If we want to teach young people to be flexible and not give up on their dreams because something got in their way, then we’d be well-advised to help them brainstorm other possible ways to reach that pot of gold at the end of their rainbow.
While everyone’s situation is different, here are a few of my thoughts:
- If a student is denied acceptance into their top choice of schools, he/she might consider taking the following year off to improve their standardized test scores and build a stronger resume, taking a few community college classes and/or participating in a gap year program. The student could then reapply with a much stronger application that might lead to a better chance of getting into a college they’d like to attend.
- Consider an alternate path to the same life goal. For example, if a student isn’t accepted into the specialized program of their choice (such as fine arts, business or pre-med), they can choose a school that has a very strong fine arts department, an extremely strong science department or a great business major where they can create their own path to a similar end. In his book David and Goliath, author Malcolm Gladwell writes about how some students are better served by avoiding the Ivy Leagues where they end up overwhelmed and discouraged by competing with those in the top of their field. Instead, he suggests that some students are better served at the next tier down where they can become the big fish in the smaller pond, getting more attention, direction and mentoring. Additionally, sometimes the experiences one engages in outside of their courses and major can have a significant impact on future life directions.
My Own Experience
I’d like to give my own personal Plan B example. I applied to graduate school during my senior year of college and was not accepted into my top choice of graduate schools. Faced with the decision of reapplying the following year with the hopes of getting into a different program, abandoning my dream of becoming a psychologist or making the best of the situation, I chose the third option.
I decided to capitalize on the opportunities offered by the program that accepted me. I threw my heart and soul into school psychology (my second choice) knowing that I wanted to specialize in working with kids and families any way I could while pursuing more clinical psychology (my first choice) practicum placements. In the end, I scored a prestigious “APA-Approved Clinical Psychology Internship” and created a career and business that is beyond my wildest dreams!
My path led to a very well-rounded educational experience that opened fantastic doors for me. It was not the traditional route, and in some ways, I had to work harder than my peers to achieve similar success. However, I turned out to have gained invaluable training in working with young people that I never would have received had I gone the more traditional clinical psychology route.
A Lesson to Remember
For many life goals, there is a conventional route, such as attending a top university and heading straight to a top graduate school. Following that type of path can practically set anyone up for entry into a top firm or even a career on Broadway. However, if that route isn’t an option for your child due to any one of a number of factors, such as less than ideal test scores or a rough sophomore year of high school that resulted in low grades, please remember that there may be alternative routes.
Offering Helpful Advice
If one door closes, you may be able to find another one nearby that leads to something similar or even better. And if it would break your heart not to follow your dreams, then it’s worth the effort to try to figure out any way you can to reach them.
If you’re currently in a predicament where your life goal seems unachievable and you’ll have to settle for a less-than-stellar Plan B, get in touch with us first. We’ll be more than willing to help you explore new routes to achieve the happiness you want. Contact our licensed psychologists in Tampa today to schedule your appointment.