College Is A Major Problem
What I learned about my major, and the major declaration process itself, after only 2 years.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I guarantee if Charles Dickens was writing about 150 years later, that quote right there would be exactly how he would describe college in his Facebook bio. I mean, sure it’s pretty harsh to liken what most people consider to be their best 4 years to the years leading right up to (and during) the French Revolution, but I frankly can’t think of a better way to sum up the whole ride. Almost every moment of joy is offset by some harsh, albeit ‘necessary’, life lesson of some sort – that Broke Phi Broke party was kicking last night, but how about that 8AM midterm? Or, more importantly, it’s been about 2 years, so how’s your major going by the way?
Starting from the moment you’re born, you are defined by an innumerable amount of labels (thanks Sociology 101!) because, in the simplest terms, that’s just how the real world works and that’s really how people conceptualize their surroundings. You can be defined by your gender, your line of work, your tendencies, and just about anything else that’s in-between or related in some way to any of those categorizations. But, without a doubt, one of the most important labels that you will ever receive in your life is that of your college major. It’s how people identify you and your personality in college, how you land a job post-graduation, and it even affects how you see the world around you – sadly, far too many of my Chester A. Arthur tariff reform policy jokes have fallen on deaf ears.
Naturally, then, it’s obvious that picking your major is going to be the first real life-defining decision that you’ll have to make as a budding adult – for clarification, choosing to drive the ‘69 Camaro instead of the ‘76 Buick Regal to high school was not life-defining in any way. Looking back on the whole process now, I really do wish I had someone there to give me actual, worthwhile advice on the whole collegiate process prior to my freshman year. Sure my dad was a goldmine of knowledge, but he was an Applied Sciences and Mathematics major and for someone (i.e. me) who literally cried tears of joy the day I finished Calculus and Physics, his advice seemed pretty foreign.
But before I knew it, Fall of 2012 rolled around and I, like the plethora of incoming college students every year, was enamored by the whole experience. Orientation was such a blast that I didn’t even really enjoy much of the rest of the Summer because I knew the Fall would be much, much better. Running with the same theme here, this newfound excitement and eagerness came with an accompanying sense of wanting to change the world in a profound and insightful way. So how could I start changing the world? With my major, of course!
You see, what I didn’t know (and what you should thank me for telling you) is that every department at Orientation will seem like some cheery and happy place straight out of a Disney Channel original movie. That is to say, just about anything is possible for these people. I’m not kidding either. These advisors, professors, and orientation student leaders will move mountains to prove why their department is really the best one available if you’re even slightly considering majoring or minoring in it. In all honesty, it’s probably simultaneously the best and most cunning advertisement campaign ever run. Now, just to clarify, I don’t mean to sound pessimistic or critical of any major or process. I have friends that have been orientation leaders and some of my favorite and most supportive professors were ones that I met during Orientation. The point of this entry is simply to highlight the importance of picking the right major, which I thought I did.
Quick quiz: what do you get when you combine a passion to want to change the world with an overzealous undergraduate department and a lifelong belief that you’re an Elle Woods incarnate? If you answered ‘clinically insane’, you’re only half right. What you get is a Political Science major.
I could spend the better part of this entry describing all the little reasons that ultimately led to my decision to be a Political Science major, but they’d just detract from the entry and quite frankly bore any of the two, maybe three if I’m lucky, people reading this.
My first Political Science class should’ve been a red flag for why I shouldn’t continue down this dreadfully somber road. It was a required freshman writing seminar on American Political Campaign Writing. I thought, “Hey, I get to learn all about how JFK once said he was a ‘jelly-filled donut’?! Sign me up!” Sadly, by the middle of the course, I envied JFK’s ‘blissful’ departure from this world. No, I wasn’t in need of any serious help and yes, the class was that bad. I won’t name any names out of respect for anonymity, but I’m sure if this ends up getting featured some of my old classmates will sympathize with my unofficial course assessment. To simply say the professor was a bigot would probably be the greatest compliment he/she has ever received. This person found legitimate joy in bolstering up your confidence and telling you that you’ve written one of the greatest papers he/she’s read, then, when you least expect it, he/she would hit you smack-dab in your self-confidence (pfft! who needs that as a first year college student anyway?!) with an emphatically written C+. I don’t mean to sound like a ‘grade-grub’ or to make this seem like any form of written retribution, but a C+ in college is a lot bigger deal than a C+ in high school. One C+ and your chances of getting even an A- for the overall semester GPA is pretty slim, not to mention it’ll haunt you for the rest of your academic and professional career.
After emerging from the class relatively unscathed emotionally, I decided that I’d stick with the major anyway. After all, my Intro to American Politics class was pretty interesting. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the world of regret I’d enter over the course of the next academic year.
Probably the most cliché advice that you will ever get for picking a major is to pick what interests you the most and what you know, without the slightest doubt, that you’re passionate about. Trust me, that passion will definitely help you get through some of your hardest and least enjoyable classes (every major has them). For me, Political Science was what I thought I had to take to get into law school or any graduate program I wanted, but it wasn’t my passion. I figured I could tough it out for 3-4 years, get my degree, and head off into the sunset with my beautifully well-deserved Juris Doctorate thereafter. This, and I cannot emphasize this enough, was the worst logic that I have ever used to make a decision – not very promising for a prospective law student considering the LSAT has a whole section on logic only. Phonetically, the only ‘rational’ part of my deduction was its extremely ‘rash’ nature. Again, I don’t mean to disparage the degree because I have a great deal of respect for my professors and peers in it. But where Political Science was something I thought I had to do for law school, English was my true passion.
If I could take classes on the analysis of contemporary literature, Existentialism in French literature, and the history of 19th century British literature, I’d never have a complaint in the world. Why? Because, like I said, it’s my passion and what I truly love to do. If I do it in my free time, why wouldn’t I want to do it for my course of study? Plenty of respectable politicians, lawyers, and businessmen were English majors. As a matter of fact, the one thing I’m grateful I learned in that first semester writing seminar – which oddly enough didn’t teach me or any of my peers how to write at all – was that Mitt Romney was an English major.
My passion for wanting to be an English major, however, is not only grounded in my legitimate interest in world literature studies. It’s also grounded in my passion to write. I’d write for writing’s sake and nothing else if I could. Whether it’s a clever tweet or full story featured in the New Yorker (oh to dream…), I’ll be grateful enough to have not only authored it, but to have also affected even one more person with my writing than I would have otherwise been able to.
So why am I telling you all this? Easy. It’s because of how passionate I am about the subject. My passion makes it easy for me to express myself and my true, and at times very raw, sentiments on the subject. It is only when you can look yourself in the mirror and earnestly say something like that for your major, career, or whatever else it may be, that you know you will be content for the rest of your life. Contentment, after all, is the key to creativity, innovation, and intellectual vitality.
I’d imagine at this point you’re probably wondering why I posted such a long article describing why I wished I could change my major. Unfortunately, as of now, because I transferred and had taken so many classes in Political Science already, it made no sense to leave the major so close to graduation. It being doubtful that I will ever have the pleasure of being an English major, I do hope this entry will help anyone reading it not make the same mistake as me. Don’t pick a major because you think it’s what you have to do. That’s one of the greatest beauties of the whole college experience: you don’t really have to do anything. Behind all the general education requirements, terrible parking policies, and passed out freshmen in the quad on the weekends, it’s really meant to be an experiment through which you foster your interests and passions, then flourish as an individual. So don’t be afraid to be a journalism major or visual arts major! If that’s what you want to do, it’s what you want to do. Some of the happiest people I know are in both of those fields, and quite frankly I do envy their passion and drive at times. Even if you want to go undeclared for two years to test out every field of interest, do it. The worst thing to do is to rush into something, get way too involved, then have to reluctantly retract and lose all the progress you’ve made, or worse have to continually endure it. Don’t get stuck in a rut like that because it’s a waste of time, energy, and creativity. Instead, push yourself to be challenged beyond what you thought you were capable of or expected to do. No one really expects anything of you in college because part of the whole experience is to set your own expectations for yourself.
And whatever those expectations may be, just rest assured knowing that whether you’re the next John Steinbeck or Henry Kissinger, the world will always have a place for you.
Oh, and Ryan Gosling will always support you unconditionally.