As a rising college freshman, I thought long and hard about which major to declare. It was important for me to arrive on campus with a field in mind because, without knowing what I wanted to be for the rest of my life, how was I supposed to succeed in school undecided? I settled on the biology major with a focus in marine studies…the key word here: settled.
Within the first two weeks of the fall semester, I’d dropped my biology 101 class; I hated it, and I was failing because I hated it. I did just fine in high school biology, I thought to myself. I was good at it and I enjoyed it. Here I am, half a month in and without a major. I felt stuck.
Then, I started getting into my psychology 101 course I’d been taking simultaneously. Psychology was a subject that both peaked my interest and I could academically dominate. Kismet, right? I redeclared that same semester.
But I realized I felt no true ‘spark’ with the psychology major. Sure, psychology is fascinating and my grades are holding up, but if I were to stick with that major and graduate with that degree, I’d end up committing to a career in a field where, when it came down to it, I settled for. So, I put psychology on the backburner and shopped around my school’s ‘majors’ page. I met with the head of the education department thinking teaching children might be cool; I love kids and being in charge. But no dice. I looked into the sociology major, similar-but-not to the psychology major. Even less dice. And then, I met with the head of the writing department. He suggested I sign up for the creative writing course being held in the spring semester. A ray of light beamed into his office window and the Hallelujah chorus rang through the halls.
Okay, neither happened. But I spent most of winter break excited about the creative writing course and when the spring semester started, I knew I was heading in the right direction. Still, I faced a dilemma: what can one actually do with a writing degree? Teach? Not for me, thank you. Write the next great American novel? On my to-do list but unlikely to earn me a living right out of school. Spring semester, I declared a writing and psychology double-major. Cool enough, I thought. One’s a passion and the other is realistic.
It wasn’t long before I felt the same lack-of-spark feeling with this new declaration. Sophomore year, fall semester came and I was over the moon with the writing classes I’d taken. I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to utilize free-thought writing day-to-day. Enter the communications major. Enter the ray of light and chorus of angels. Here’s how I knew I’d fallen in love with a major.
1.) You Genuinely Look Forward to Class
Whether it’s a distasteful professor instructing the course or just a bland curricular, all majors have courses you’ll only schedule because they’re required for your degree and you’ll dread going to. These outlier classes aside, do you look forward to attending a major-focused class? Does the coursework or homework engage your brain? Do you succeed in that class largely because you enjoy the content? If so, you may have found ‘the one.
2.) Your Grades are Good, Not Great
Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t achieving straight A plusses in every one (or even in any one) of your courses. The best classes are meant to challenge your mind. If you’re riding high with a 4.0, amazing. If not, it’s not necessarily because your major isn’t the one for you; it may be because it’s the perfect major for you. Challenging = engaging. Engaging = growth of a passion.
3.) You’re Ambitious
When it comes to your lifelong career, it’s important to aim high. Most students complete an internship before graduating and, some, again after graduation. If you’ve already narrowed down what it is you want to do with your degree, you may have also looked into internships that pertain to your major. I hadn’t even considered looking at internships until a couple months ago. But once I got in the groove, it was one of the only things I thought about every day. Some great resources I recommend are Barefoot Student, Indeed, and the LinkedIn Jobs phone app.
4.) You Day Dream About Your Future Career
Maybe you zone out in class to the thought of you making waves in your career field. At dinner, maybe you’re less engaged in the table conversation and more engaged in imaginary-you killing it at the imaginary workplace. If thinking about how happy you’ll be working at a job you love derived from the major you’re studying now gets you through the day, you may be in the right place.
5.) You Make Your Major a Part of Your Life Outside of School
Separating school and your free time is quite normal. But with a major you’re passionate about, you may take your studies outside of the classroom, purposefully or otherwise. Do you discuss your major and classes at length with your parents or friends? Do you partake in major-focused work not for academic purposed? Do you research your major and its benefits to society during your down time?
For me, settling for the psychology major would’ve been the equivalent of settling for Steve Buscemi over Orlando Bloom, both of whom do amazing work but only one of whom strongly appeals to me. College isn’t the time to settle for anything, especially your college major. If you’re not head-over-heels in love with what you’re studying, what are you doing?
("Purple Light 4" by Parameter Bond )
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