You sit in front of your computer screen and scroll through a column of white boxes with an academic discipline listed next to each one, from Accounting to Women’s Studies. Then, quickly and unceremoniously, you make a decision that, in theory, is supposed to define the rest of your life.
To this day, it still boggles my mind that as a rising freshman in college, this is how we are asked to select a major. It is a significant decision, monumental even, and yet it’s condensed into the checking of a box.
When I got to this step of college preparation the situation seemed hardly significant. It was like being asked what your favorite subject in school was, so I responded to the question in the same manner. With minimal thought and virtually no discussion, I scrolled through and decided what to click based on which major sounded most appealing. I saw “English,” decided I liked books and I liked to write, and without any further deliberation, clicked the corresponding square. I didn’t fully grasp I had just charted my academic path at UD.
When I actually set foot on campus I began to wonder if I had gone about that the wrong way. When my fellow students discussed their major they weren’t discussing what they enjoyed, they were talking about what would best set them up for a career. Degree-related conversations praised practicality and glossed over actual interest. A peer asked me -not entirely sarcastically- if I planned on living in a cardboard box after I told him the major I came in with. It seemed in picking my area of study based on what I truly liked, I had made a serious mistake.
But wait- aren’t you supposed to take classes that interest you? Aren’t you, as student, supposed to pursue what inspires you? Isn’t that what college is all about? Shouldn’t your profession be the product of passion instead of the other way around? Suddenly I wasn’t so sure. And because I didn’t have a clearly defined career path laid out before me -the way so many of my colleagues did- my future that had once appeared brimming with possibilities now looked entirely bleak.
However, I stuck with my decision for a while longer. I couldn’t help myself. The homework I was assigned in my major-specific courses I probably would have done on my own free time. I was emotionally invested in the discussions we had in class. I was passionate, truly passionate, about the material, so I continued to pour myself into my studies.
Then, something interesting occurred, and continued to occur. Opportunities started falling into my lap. I was offered a position editing this very blog. I got a research gig that was directly correlated to my interests. I became a tutor in the University Writing Center. My resume was steadily being strengthened and when I interviewed for positions I found I possessed skills employers valued and needed.
As it happened, I wasn’t destined for a life in a cardboard box. On the contrary, it seemed my future was actually fairly promising, (at least, I’d like to think so). But this isn’t about some accomplishment I made; this is me saying you don’t have to fit yourself into some ill-fitting, career-perfect mold to accomplish things at all. You don’t have to squeeze into that tiny square on the computer screen you clicked when you selected your major. What you can do instead is pursue your passions, and it is amazing to see where this can lead you.
What lies ahead of me is not pre-defined and it’s not entirely clear, but I now find this exciting rather than intimidating. Just because it’s not already mapped out based on a decision I made as a rising freshman, it doesn’t mean it’s not full of opportunities and possibilities and prospects. As I continue to pursue my passions, things continue to fall into place. I encourage anyone who will listen to do the same.
Bottom line: do what you love. Everything else will follow.