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Differentiating wants and needs

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Distinguishing between a want and a need may seem like quite a simple task. However, for most college students, deciding whether something is a necessity or merely a desire can be a daily struggle and sometimes making the choice to do what is necessary as a member of society is even harder.

According to, 87 percent of college students between the ages of 19 and 23 categorize “achieving a passing grade in every class” as a need when, in actuality, it is nothing more than a want.

A want comes from a desire to do or have something. Needs are conscious necessary steps, people or actions. A student may want to get an A on a test. To achieve that goal of a perfect score, they will need to study. We may want to go on vacation after the semester ends, but to do so we may need to ditch the weekend plans and save up some money. The necessity is what must be done in order to get what we want.

“I want many things in life,” said history major Cory Mathis when asked about this. “Unfortunately a lot of the time I don’t have the time or energy to do what I need to do in order to get them.”

The reality for most college students is that they are constantly longing for things that are seemingly out of reach. This struggle leads to nothing but frustration. In order to break the self-fulfilling negative cycle of longing without satisfying, one must change their mindset.

There are many things we need in life. We need family and friends. We need food and water. We need to be open minded when dealing with others of different backgrounds and lifestyles than our own. All of these are necessary because without them, we may never thrive to our fullest potential and succeed.

To know when you want something rather than need something, you must think twice and ask yourself a few honest questions: Can I live without this? Will this definitely help me to reach my end goal? Will this benefit me in the future or just in the short term? Asking yourself these important questions will help you to understand the value of what it is that you are longing for.

A growing issue today is that we long for a change without ever doing something to create one. We turn on the television and are bombarded with headline stories of brutality and injustice. Most of us will gasp in horror and shake our heads in disapproval only to turn a blind eye. We recoil at the thought of leaving our comfort zones and stepping out into the world of “making it happen.”

In an informal survey of 15 Palomar College students, 10 said that they wanted to see positive changes happen within our society in the next 10 years. When asked what they had done to help influence the societal change they wanted to see, all 10 students said they had done nothing.

Our wants and needs are powerful. As the next generation of influential leaders, practicing implementing necessary steps to achieve goals within our society can help to build a stronger community; we must take what we practice every day as college students and shift it into our lives as functioning members of society.

Taking the time to ponder a decision before you make it is the best way to come to the right conclusion. Evaluate and then take the necessary steps to move forward. It is okay to want things in life, but what we want may not always be what we need and doing what we need to do is the only sure way to get what we want. When we realize this we will soon be able to achieve more than we could ever possibly imagine.

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Differentiating wants and needs