Major Problems

I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with some form of “Ground control to Major Tom” pun for the title of the “choosing your major” blog. Oh well.

 

As a child, I assumed that figuring out my path in life would be a lot simpler and more straightforward.  This is entirely due to the unrealistic academic expectations that childhood classics presented us with.

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100% chance that the Aurors didn’t accept Dumbledore’s Army as relevant internship experience when Harry applied.

Picking a major feels daunting. In a lot of ways, your first few months (or years) as an Undecided student feel like you went to a Masquerade ball and forgot your mask – everyone else seems to know what role they have to play but you.

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And just like Phantom, the theater majors are taking the masquerade way, way too seriously.

What’s funny is that on paper, choosing your major is pretty insignificant. Nine or ten classes. A handful of papers. Some hours in lab.  A line on your resume or grad school application. An embossed piece of paper after four years.

But it would be silly to write it off as just that.

There’s the social component of it – the stereotypes, the identities, the prestige or lack thereof. I’d write a witty joke here, but Randall Munroe over at xkcd has done an infinitely better of capturing this ordeal than I have:

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And of course, there’s the social aspect beyond college: there’s moms and dads and uncles and every single stranger who wants to know not only your major, but your projected life plan, the median income of those in your field, what your summer plans are, what color SUV you’ll buy when you turn 45.

So first off, I would say take a big, deep breath, and remember that a major application form won’t determine your happiness thirty-five years from now.

When I came to college, I walked in with this kind of nebulous cloud of possible majors (and futures, if you want to get poetic about it). I was considering Political Science, English, History, Spanish, Theater, and Philosophy. Trying to choose what you want your major to be in a vacuum is silly – take classes. Try professors. Go to events. Ask older students how they feel about it (note: make sure you also ask if they have any exams that week, which will drastically affect their opinion on their major). See what kinds of opportunities you want from college – study away, business internships, research, so on and so forth.

After taking a few courses, I had a better idea of what I was interested in, and what I was truly passionate about. If I could, I’d still be majoring in all of those things – but by the end of my spring semester freshman year I knew what I wanted to major in the most.

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Do not forget who you are, or that you shouldn’t put off your general education requirements until senior year, my child.

The most obvious and helpful way to figure out what you want to major in is to talk to a professor in that department. A surprising number of people never do this when they’re on the fence. Of anyone at Furman, they’re the ones who will be able to tell you what kinds of career options that major offers, what kinds of experiences you can have, and what the major requirements will look like. Additionally, the student life center has a handy personality test/flowchart that will help you figure out what you might be interested in, both as an undergrad and professionally. This is really cutting into one of my side hustles, which is charging freshmen for tarot readings.

Let yourself figure out what you’re interested most in. That’s the point of college, after all.

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