Outreach: Springing forward

iStock image of a person standing on an abstract road with a backpack.

Ah, springtime; such a wonderful season! As Pittsburghers, we all celebrate making it through the cold winter, and are reminded by our senses that springtime provides us with some of the simplest grounding qualities for our mental health. Just breathe it all in!

With new flowers pushing through the dirt and trees beginning to bloom, springtime may inspire many of us to realize that new beginnings are possible. For many of this year’s high school seniors, spring also brings with it college acceptance letters—and a big decision soon to follow.

Decision-making can be complicated and challenging for many of us. At times, we may attempt to please others rather than make a choice that best reflects our individual values. How can we improve our ability to make decisions that best reflect our values? The University of Massachusetts  Dartmouth recommends a process that may help seniors “make more deliberate, thoughtful decisions by organizing relevant information and defining alternatives.”

Step One—Identify the decision
This first step is essential in clarifying a decision, such as if a high school senior is accepted into five colleges, but not their top choice.

Step Two—Gather relevant information
This step involves the student completing inner work, such as journaling thoughts and feelings about the different schools; couple this with external work, which could entail information about school size, academics, and extracurriculars offered, as well as any financial information to take into consideration (are scholarships offered?). Which school will best serve you as a home for the next four years?

Step Three—Identify the alternatives
Consider all the options available to you. It is likely that new possibilities and alternative paths may arise during this step.

Step Four—Weigh the evidence
Refer to the journaling and referencing previously completed. List the pros and cons. This step ends by prioritizing the alternatives.

Step Five—Choose among alternatives
You’ve made your list and you are now ready to make the final decision!

Step Six—Take action
You’ve chosen an alternative after weighing the evidence; next step is to move forward deliberately with this alternative.

Step Seven—Review your decision and its consequences
The final step in the process considers the results of your decision. In our example, has it resolved the need to determine a college? For a student who decided on attending a certain school, this would be the step to evaluate whether it has fulfilled your inner and external work completed in Step Two. If you’re not feeling confident in the original alternative you chose, it can be helpful to revisit certain steps in the process to ultimately arrive at a more satisfying decision.

Good luck to all the students making their post high school decisions and remember; Outreach Teen & Family Services is here to support you and your family during this challenging and exciting time!

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth ages 5 to 21, parents and families, in a welcoming, supportive environment. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.