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The Crippling Fear of the Unwise Choice

In the fall of my senior year of high school, I applied to one college. I was accepted. I attended.

This was waaaay back in 1977, and many of my peers report similar experiences. Most of us somehow wound up attending institutes of higher learning. “Choice” doesn’t necessarily feel like the right word to describe the processes that got us there.

In the abstract, I can imagine having searched more thoroughly and located  a school that would have been a better fit for me. But, I can’t actually name that school. And this is despite my being in a line of work that acquaints me with the features of hundreds of colleges and universities.

For better or worse, I truly never thought in terms of selecting the “right” college.

Ana Homayoun describes the angst that I and my similarly clueless peers were spared:

More and more, there is a thinly veiled fear of risk, and especially of failure, among many parents and students. They panic, thinking that whatever they do might not be the right thing to do to get into the right college and get the right job (which would lead to the right spouse and the right kids – ad infinitum).

Her book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week, focuses on the issues of disorganized, unfocused adolescent boys, but I think it has messages that apply to all of us.

All too often, the underlying fear of choosing correctly can erase what’s really important and authentic about a boy and can lead to a lost sense of self.

The more choices we have, the larger the stakes seem to loom. We fear the butterfly effect of tragic results that surely lie at the end of our unwise choices. Ironically, less choice emboldens us, because we don’t feel a huge weight of responsibility for every little wrong turn or bad outcome in our lives.

Too much choice makes it more difficult to take the road less traveled by, even if that is the road upon which we truly belong.

[photo of entrance into Woolsey Hall, Yale University]

The Crippling Fear of the Unwise Choice

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS is an educator, counselor, writer and speaker. She's been a tutor, test prep coach and home school teacher for over thirty years. Click HERE to visit Leigh's website and to subscribe to her newsletter, "Learning Something New."

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APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2012). The Crippling Fear of the Unwise Choice. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Mar 2012
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