Photo: Wendell Franks/iStock
1. To vote or not to vote? In other words, does my one puny vote actually count?
It does! Think of it as your one big bad vote, which will give your candidate marching orders. "Studies show that officials pay attention to groups that vote and ignore those that don't," says Harvard Kennedy School professor Thomas Patterson, PhD, author of The Vanishing Voter. As for choosing which elections to show up for, "never in history has a presidential election been decided by a single vote, but many smaller races have," Patterson says. "The smaller the electorate, the more important the single voter. And if you want to make an even bigger difference, get involved in the campaign, where you have the power to affect dozens or even hundreds of votes."
2. Is the prestige of a private college really worth the price?
Yes—but only because prestige can come so cheap these days. "Many parents are surprised to learn that some of the most selective private schools in the country are the least expensive to attend," says Jeff Brenzel, PhD, dean of Yale undergraduate admissions. Yale offers a full ride to students with family incomes below $60,000; Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford offer similar packages. But Brenzel—himself the father of one child in private school and another at a state university—adds that state universities often offer some of the best honors programs. "If your child is high-achieving, it would be difficult to do better than some of the prestigious programs at state universities. Your child's future is not going to be determined by which gate she walks through. It's going to depend on every decision she makes once she's through it."
3. What about all the decisions I have yet to make?
If it's a question of fact, you'll almost certainly find an answer online. If it's more a matter of figuring out your heart's desire, our best advice is this: Flip a coin. Seriously. Dig up a quarter, toss it in the air, and see what turns up. If you're disturbed, dismayed, or disappointed by the result, well, that's your answer. And having figured out what you want to do, we hope you'll do it!
Arianne Cohen is a Manhattan-based writer. Her exploration of the world of tall people, The Tall Book (Bloomsbury), will be published in January 2009.
Additional reporting by Brooke Kosofsky Glassberg and Kate Sandoval.