By: Kathleen Exantus
If you are a college freshman, congratulations on making it through your first semester of college. You are one step closer to getting your degree and pursuing your dream career – even if you are not sure what that is yet. This article is dedicated to the students who still don’t know what they want to do when they grow up. Whether you are a freshman who is still exploring their options to the college sophomore, junior, maybe even senior who are still confused or unhappy in their major, I want to let you know you’re not alone.
Picking a major is one of the biggest decisions a young adult makes in their life. It’s even tougher when you go from 12 years of traditional, structured curriculum to figuring your entire life plan in a matter of months. If you’re anything like me, you’ve never really figured out what your passions, interests, or talents are outside of the basic curriculum that your school required you to know. As a third year, I feel that I am finally figuring out what I want to do with my life and how to make it happen. I want to share my journey to help out anyone who feels lost and unsure in college.
When I started college, I had no idea of what I wanted to do. One of the mistakes I made and, possibly the biggest, was that I let others decide for me instead of exploring my options. I am the product of two hard working, immigrant, West Indian parents, so it was drilled in my head to pick a “practical” major. Introduced by my father, I chose accounting. I thought it was something that I could easily master and it would lead to a high-paying, secure future. Mistake #2.
For any other kids of foreign parents or first generation college students, you understand the pressure to succeed. I felt that I owed to my parents for all their sacrifices and investments into my future to pick respect their wishes. My parents just wanted to make sure that their child had it better than they did. However, the future earning value should not be the sole reason you pick a major.
From my experience, that is not enough to sustain motivation and interest to succeed in your courses. Little to my surprise, the accounting major was very rigorous and I was doing poorly in my major courses. Even though each semester was a mediocre performance, I let the thought of high paychecks and corporate perks keep me in a major I did not love. I did not want to disappoint my parents and had too much pride to just easily give up. It took me until my 3rd year to figure out that I was on a sinking ship and I needed to abandon quickly.
I had to figure out the hard way that it’s okay to not be sure of what you want to do. A big part of why I stuck with accounting these past two years was that I was scared of uncertainty. With accounting, there is a specific track and career plan to follow. If you took the right classes, interned with the right companies, you were guaranteed a job. However, as the courses got more difficult, the worse I did, and the more disinterested I became.
My confidence, anxiety, and GPA suffered for it. I felt like I was killing myself for a life and career that I wasn’t even convinced that I wanted. The pressure became so intense at one point that I considered dropping out of college. Looking back, I wish I started off college undeclared, giving myself a chance to figure out what are my talents and interests. Could have saved myself a year of pain.
Even for all my setbacks, I wouldn’t have known that I was pursuing the wrong major without them. As a college junior, I can confidently say that I don’t know what the future holds and I’m okay with that. My passion lies in fashion and beauty and I am working toward being a fashion buyer for a major department store.
Recently I’ve come to the decision to pursue a marketing major with a fashion merchandising minor. Trying to merge my interests with something practical and useful. I didn’t come to this decision without a little help. With the help of friends, academic counselors, the career center, and independent research, I feel more confident about my decision each day. I recommend anyone who is unsure of what they want to do, to figure out what you are talented in or interested in, research possible related majors, and utilize resources and faculty at your institution.
In college, it’s easy to believe that everyone has it together and have their lives figured out, but that is far from the truth. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t have a plan as of yet. Don’t think you are too far in your college career to make a change. And most importantly, don’t let others make decisions about YOUR life for you. Better late than never to take control of your life. Although future employment, earning potential, and value of a degree are all important factors to consider, I firmly believe that if you are doing what you love, you’ll never have to worry.