Three weeks ago, students bought their backpacks, supplies and overpriced textbooks in preparation for the college journey. What’s really needed besides these things, while in college, is a major.
Many of us chose a major that excited us, but when we begin to take the required courses the excitement disappears and is replaced with mixed emotions. We doubt that this is the right course, and then we’re is stunned by this unraveling expectation. This is the story of many college students.
With the money we invest in education, “happiness” on the line, and the future to think about, we feel pressured to be 100 percent certain about our goals and aspirations. People take the Gallup Strengths quiz, among others, to help them decide.
If anyone takes The Princeton Review “Career Quiz,” one has to pick between two statements. Option one: “I would rather be a wildlife expert,” or option two: “I would rather be a public relations professional.” The quiz does not help ease the decision.
Students struggle to commit to a major, because the possibly of what they could do is limitless. They don’t want to miss out on anything. In college, many students hop from major to major. Unless we came to college with full clarity about a major, a lot of the journey is elimination.
Thompson Learning Center student advisor Katrina Brooks says her greatest advice for students is to explore and not get caught up in making the decision. She helps students navigate by telling them instead of focusing on the career, that they identify what they enjoy doing.
For example, she’s hypothetically thinking of becoming a pediatrician. She starts broad by pinning down her love for working with kids. “Now there’s plenty of ways to work with kids,” Brooks said. This advice helps students feel less trapped by the major of their picking.
Some students pick their majors in non-systemic ways, such as Kayli Ratute, a first-year student at UNO. Ratute says she’s thinking about majoring in Criminal Justice, because she sees it on television. Her biggest fear about her major is ending up not being successful.
Anxiety comes from not knowing what the future will hold. Ratute recounts an advice from her workplace, “When having conversations with people, they ask me about school, and they tell me ‘don’t worry, I’m in my fifties, and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life.’” What people want to do is not truly official. It changes while they are audaciously–boldly–exploring what it is they truly want.
Choosing a major is almost like choosing a partner to marry. Slowly, students who are too far deep in their major realize the best thing is to not be afraid to divorce their major after graduation. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. If their relationship has run its course, then they tend to rebuild and re-apply the skills they’ve learned in another occupation. Our search to discover what we really want to do doesn’t have to end after graduation.
When we question our major, initially, it feels like we’ve made a huge mistake. We probably took a while to be sure, then the feeling of certainty got lost. Then we’re scurrying internally looking for an answer. Then we end up with our head in our hands, wondering how we ended up here.
Even if you’re wishy-washy about your chosen major, let Brooks advise you. “College is too big to limit yourself to one thing.” When looking at your diploma, you just might be sure or unsure, but you carry on. That’s all you can expect.