Question: My friends are all going to four-year universities but I have to attend community college for financial reasons. Hearing them talk about their future roommates, dorm decorations, and fall semester classes just reminds me of what I don’t have. Going to family functions is especially hard because I find myself dreading how I will respond to my relatives’ questions about what my future plans are. I don’t want to sound like a downer all the time but I feel like I’m being left in the dust and missing out on having a “real” college experience.

Answer: As a young adult, breaking the norm and attending community college can be a tough decision, especially when you want a traditional college experience. Gail Groboski, LCSW-C, an adolescent therapist at Kentlands Psychotherapy says, “oftentimes we feel burdened to explain our reasoning behind personal life decisions. Having a plan of action to combat awkward conversations with peers and family can make the shift to college life easier.” Creating an ‘elevator speech’ about your college plans is a simple way to regulate those uncomfortable conversations and can help take the burden off of you. Reminding yourself that you do not owe anyone an explanation for your choices can be empowering, often because the person you are speaking with is already drawing their own conclusions. Johanna Koenig, an adolescent therapist at Kentlands Psychotherapy adds that it is important to remember that life is not linear and just because you have a different roadmap does not change your end destination. You may have to take a few extra turns along the way, but the road less traveled can often lead to bigger and better things.