“So, what are you studying?”
A complete stranger looked at me with a half-interested face as I rang up her sandwich. It’s an all-too-familiar question students get asked by friends, family and even strangers who come into their place of business.
Every student has gone through those seconds of terror as someone asks this question, expecting a quick and assured answer.
Many of us don’t have the answer, not yet at least.
Students have been taught to head into college with a set plan of study. When they don’t know what they want to do, family and community look down on them, as if they have no direction in life.
Setting the judgment of family and community aside (that will most likely come with or without a solid plan), do students really need to pick a major when they first get into college?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “about 465,000 students were undecided nationally in their college major during the 2011-2012 academic year.”
Before settling on journalism, I changed my major exactly five times.
I started undecided, then switched to psychology, then to zoology, law, English, film and then finally, after two and a half years, I found my calling as a journalist.
It only took three years.
The first two years of your college career are spent fulfilling your core curriculum. You take classes that have nothing to do with your interests. It has been two years since I’ve taken a math class and I feel so good.
But you’ll also take classes you never thought of taking, that spark your interest. You may find your major in one of those classes you had to take to fulfill area A, B, C or whatever else you had to check off your plan of study.
Do you know what my high school adviser said? He told me that I finished the hardest part, getting into college. Now it’s time for me to take as many different classes as possible until I find what I want to do.
According to the New York Times, “at Penn State, 80 percent of freshmen — even those who have declared a major — say they are uncertain about their major, and half will change their minds after they declare, sometimes more than once.”
So you’re not alone. There are a lot of us with no idea what we’re doing, I’m not even sure I do.
The good news is, you have time to decide what you want to do with your life, and even if you can’t decide on just one thing to do, there are several options.
So, back to the point of this piece: Do you have to choose a major right now? No, you don’t have to make the most important choice of your college career immediately.
I would start worrying about bigger things, like how much you are going to owe in student loans by the time you are finished with school.
Now that is scary.