choosing a major vs. choosing a career, is there a correlation?

choosing a major

When your first two years in college are hard enough, adding on the decision of your major is often times the icing on a not-so-tasty cake. The process I went through was full of ink and mascara smudges. I routinely changed my mind and scribbled over one disciple for another on my Junior Major Form (the ink smudges, duh). And I cried frequently out of sheer confusion (the mascara smudges, obvi). But we all have to make an eventual decision – and that is where I want to help. My process was far from perfect, but it worked, so let’s talk about the journey.

I applied to the college on my list with the intention of being an English major. But something during my summer before college made me think I didn’t like reading. Maybe I was burned out from high school? Maybe I thought I was too cool for school? Who knows… But I took it as a sign that I should enter into college undecided in my major. This definitely had its benefits: I felt free to explore, take classes with my friends, and rejoice in all of the academic opportunities. But these feelings and actions also came with a sense of worry. As my first semester of college turned into my second, I suddenly felt the pressure to know what I should major in. I also thought that my major would be an end-all be-all for my future career path. So I evaluated the courses I had taken so far by answering the following questions:

What about this class interested me? The readings? The professor? The topics discussed?

What other courses are offered in this discipline? Do they sound just as engaging?

I took quite a few politics and international relations courses my first year, and after answering the questions above, I somehow decided to pursue economics. You’re not reading that incorrectly – I literally jumped from politics to economics without having taken one class in the latter’s field. Those questions work, I promise you, but I somehow deduced from my own responses that I needed to change disciples completely. So I went for it.

I took my first economics class fall semester of my sophomore year. And it was fascinating, interesting, but also really hard. At the same time that I was taking Macroeconomics, I was also taking an Intro African American Literature class. By the end of the semester, I received a C in Macroeconomics and an A in Intro African American Literature. I needed to reevaluate:

Why did I decide to take this class? Because it would get me a job after I graduate? Because it’s what I love?

My answer? I took Macroeconomics because I thought an Economics degree would get me hired after I graduated, so I desperately tried to make myself be good at something I was clearly not cut out for. I am not good at Economics. But I did realize that I am good at literature. Intro African American Literature made me unabashedly happy. It was my realm, my space, where I needed to be.

And then I decided to go abroad. Spring semester Sophomore year, I traveled to Siena, Italy.

I spent four months living and breathing Italian culture. I was living with my beloved Paola, eating spaghetti every day, and forgetting about the fact that I had declared my Economics major before hopping on a plane for Europe. I was genuinely happy in Siena, which was the same feeling I experienced after submitting my last paper for my literature course.

So when it came time to register for classes for the Fall, I didn’t chose a single Economics class.

Instead, I chose American Lit Survey I, British Lit Survey 2, and African American Writers. I’m sure my sigh of relief was heard around the world—because the satisfaction was real.

Although my journey through majors may be hard to follow, the bottom line is: Do what makes you happy, do what challenges you healthfully, and do whatever you want.

There is no formula to get hired after graduation. As Nonie Creme SC ’94 puts best: “People sometimes roll their eyes at certain majors like, ‘What will you do with that?’ The correct answer is ‘Anything I want, actually.’” Reflect, evaluate, and maybe go abroad. If you study something you’re passionate about, your life will greatly improve – just as mine did. You will develop a newfound confidence in your abilities as an academic, which will (hopefully) transfer into your confidence in finding a post-grad path.

In the end, your major only matters by the degree in which it makes you feel fulfilled. A job is just a job, and there are plenty out there for you to have. But a college education is only for four years, make the most out of it.

Want to make these decisions even easier? Download the guide below and navigate how your passions translate academically and professionally.