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Choosing a Major in College

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 @ 11:34 AM

Choosing a college majorFinding Your Best Fit Major When You're Already at Your Best Fit School 

In high school, I had all the makings of a future English major.  My favorite classes were English and history because I could express my ideas through writing.  I served as senior editor of the literary magazine and wrote for the school newspaper.  My classmates asked me to brainstorm theses and edit their papers.  I was inspired and challenged by my English teachers, who supported and cultivated my love of reading.  Whenever I discussed my aspirations to study English, my friends joked about my future unemployment.

Still, I persisted.  When the time came for "The Decision," one of the reasons I chose Barnard College was its strong English department and many successful literary alumna, including Zora Neale Hurston, Anna Quindlen, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ann Brashares.  When I packed my bags that August, I was excited to finally be an English major, but part of me also wanted to explore the other options presented by my liberal arts education.

Fast-forward to last summer, when the pressure of a looming deadline to declare a major by the end of sophomore year caused me to question the only plan I’d ever known.  Though I had loved my first-year English courses, I found the major too structured – I realized I wanted something flexible so I could take full advantage of the numerous courses available to me.  I took to answering the inevitable question, “What are you studying?” with “Indecisive.”  It seemed impossible to commit – how could I, at 19 years of age, decide what I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life towards? 

After much existential questioning, I realized my problem.  I was operating under the common misconception that a major decided my fate.  If I ultimately chose to be an English major, it wouldn’t force me into the life of a starving artist/Starbucks barista, just as it wouldn’t keep me from becoming a lawyer or a doctor or an entrepreneur.  More importantly, if I chose to study something else, I could still pursue a career in publishing or journalism and see my name in print – a dream of mine from high school.  It suddenly all made sense – a major isn’t always a roadmap for one’s career aspirations but should always instill a passion for learning.

Though I’ll always love English, it’s political science that’s ultimately won my heart.  I’ve always been interested in politics and government, and I loved my Introduction to American Politics class that expanded my view of the complex and tumultuous federalist system.  As a poli sci major, I am studying subjects that truly interest me, have more flexibility creating my schedule, and am developing my writing just as I would be majoring in English.  As a student at Barnard, I have the opportunity to take classes at Columbia University, where Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, George Stephanopoulos, and President Barack Obama once studied in preparation for their future careers in politics. 

Through my experience picking a major, I’ve learned that it’s not so much the answer to the “What are you studying?” question that matters but rather the actual studying, learning, and growing that you will inevitably do.  As Barnard alumna Anna Quindlen once said, “I majored in unafraid.”  When it comes to choosing a major, I encourage you to do the same.


Written by IvyWise

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