Rutgers-Camden Blog

Discovering Your “WHY” in College


How to discover your “Why”

People sometimes ask us, or we ask ourselves, “WHY” are you doing “WHAT?”. For some, it is easy to identify “WHAT” we want to do. Some of you want to become lawyers, others want to become doctors, and some have no idea “WHAT” they want to do. Part of being in college is exploring your “WHAT.”

I’m interested in education policy and policy analysis. Why? In college, I learned that less than 5% of foster youth graduate. As a product of this system for 14 years, I am not okay with being an anomaly. So I began my professional journey working in higher education to bring awareness about students like me and identify “WHAT” policies and resources impact the trajectory of emancipated foster youth across high education institutions.

When you have your “WHY,” you learn to fight through your “WHAT.” Let’s begin by watching this YouTube video about the difference between a “WHAT” and a

In this YouTube clip, Michael Jr. explains how the “WHY” impacts the “WHAT.” Your “WHAT” provides a reason, while your “WHY” gives it meaning. So let’s work on discovering your “WHY.”

Step 1: Identify Your “WHAT”

What is it that you want to do? For some, going to college and getting their degree is their current “WHAT.” You are doing that right now! At the very least, you have a “WHAT.” However, your “what” needs a reason. Consider these questions:

The premise of this step is to align your present and future “WHATs.” By identifying what connects what you do today with what you aspire to do, you’ll get closer to understanding your WHY.

Step 2: Who or “WHAT” Inspires You?

Think about what motivates you during this step. It may be your family, future, past, or community. The things that inspire us to impact who we ultimately become. During this step, you must look at those pouring into your glass. When things get tough, who do you call? Who is the first person you think of when you have exciting news? Ask them about you. Learn “WHAT” they love about you.

Step 3: Give your WHAT a purpose

The clip shows that Michael Jr. gave the gentleman a scenario. When he thought about the circumstances of the situation, his singing changed. The second time he sang the song, I was overcome with emotion. Feeling warm, I smiled and got goosebumps. That is what happens when your WHAT has a purpose. When things get tough, what motivates you? Consider a time when you didn’t think you could get through something. What did you do? Then consider your mindset. What were the circumstances? How did you persevere? When I reflect on my purpose, I get triggered by my past. But my therapist reminds me that I made it another day and that the hurdles of my past self-fuel the energy of my current self.

Step 4: Find an environment that encourages your WHY

Your “WHY” is like a baby. In the beginning, it is nurtured by your family. You need new clothes, nutrients, and environments as you grow. Your WHY will evolve over time. You must surround yourself with an environment to ensure that you feed your WHY.

Step 5: The Journey of Discovering Your WHY is a Marathon

We live in an era where things are readily available to us. 10-minute YouTube videos can be shortened to 15 seconds on TikTok. However, the 10-minute video has something the 15-second reel needs: time. Have you ever tried learning dance on TikTok? You first try to catch the steps in the video. Eventually, you may find a creator who breaks down the dance into steps. After watching the 15-second clip repeatedly, you spend more than 10 minutes learning it; you could have learned it on YouTube.

There is no shortcut to finding your purpose. Even this blog does not tell you how long it’ll take to discover your WHY because that is ultimately up to you. The moment you follow your passions, your purpose will become more evident! There are times when your WHAT drains you! There are times when your WHAT will make you want to give up! But when you know WHY you’re doing something, you create the tools to get through your WHAT!