At the age of five, I was convinced I would make the world’s best kindergarten teacher. By eight, I saw myself becoming a psychologist. I was sure I was the next Judy Blume during my pre-teen years. The past few years, I have had my heart set on becoming a nutritionist. Just last week, I convinced my friends I would thrive as a wedding planner. Now, I’m awaiting my next grand idea. I can’t wait to see which quirky career I’ll pick for myself.
So, given my history, how should I answer the most common question that, as a sophomore, I now encounter: What’s my major? Honestly, I have no idea what I want to be or what I want to major in. In fact, I assert my uncertainty with pride, unlike many of my contemporaries, who seem embarrassed to admit they’re undecided.
Just because I knew what I wanted when I was five does not mean my 19-year-old self can make any decisions — at least not yet. College should be the time when students explore all their interests without the constant pressure of deciding on their future as defined by a major. I understand that some people know what they want to do with their lives and have goals. Good for them. I still find that the pressure to commit leaves students quick to dive into a major they may be unsatisfied with in 10 years — or even six months.
Finding the right career involves more than simply liking something or being good at it. It’s a balance of all aspects of a person’s life. The process can only evolve from experience, and unfortunately, I don’t think my jobs as a gym employee and camp counselor can resolve my indecision.
Maybe that’s because, to me, indecision isn’t a problem. I feel lucky to be at a school with so many outstanding programs. I’d be cheating myself to not explore as many as possible. Frankly, the fact that I will — despite my reluctance — still be required to eventually declare a major pisses me off. If it were up to me, Undecided would be a major. People speak as if it is, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I know that declaring a major isn’t the death sentence I’m making it out to be, and I know declared majors are subject to change. But if I end up taking classes solely to fill requirements in a major I ultimately change, I have wasted my time and tuition money. And even the innocuous-sounding General Studies major has its own list of course requirements that limit exploration.
To assist stubborn students, the University implores us to seek guidance from advisors. These advisors are touted as seers with the ability to assign the correct career path based solely on a meeting or two in which years of experiences and goals are condensed and analyzed. Not to be rude, but how can middle-aged college advisors with their own predispositions guide me when I don’t even know — or care to know — what I want? Thank you, advisors, but I’ll gladly stay lost and un-analyzed for as long as possible.
A word of advice for anyone interested in weighing different options — I’m taking a class this semester that I find especially valuable. It’s a section of Psych 211 called “Exploring Careers.” To be honest, I signed up for it last minute when a friend also in the class told me it was an easy pass-fail class. But by the end of the first lecture, I knew I would get more out of this class than any other course I’m taking this semester. The teacher emphasized that today, it’s far more acceptable to be out of college and not have a “real” job, or to have a job unrelated to one’s major. It’s not uncommon for people in their later twenties to go back to school after discovering an unexpected passion. And that’s okay, because I’m sure that I’ll probably change my mind about a career even after I finish college.
This might seem like nothing more than a rant about my indecisiveness. But I’ve felt this way since my grandmother told me that she took her first anthropology class during her senior year of college and then wished she could have majored in it. Naturally, I took an introductory anthropology course last year — sorry, Grammy, it bored me to tears. But I now have an overwhelming fear that if I get stuck fulfilling the requirements for a declared major, I might miss out on a class that could direct me to my true calling. And that would be a major loss.
Leah Potkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.