What’s in a major?

College is the time when you begin working towards the career that you will be doing for the rest of your life. That is undisputed. It is a time when students develop their interests into passions that they can sustain in the foreseeable future in order to mold a successful career.

It can be a turbulent time, full of self-doubt and uncertainty as well. Many will change their major once or twice during the first couple years before finally settling into what they consider to be a potentially lifelong career.

However, realizing after years of anticipation that dated far before college that teaching was not what he wanted to do was something a current college senior had not planned for.

“I appreciated the idea of teaching, but I came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t see myself doing that for the rest of my life,” says Andrew Brown, a senior at Marist College. “I had myself a bit of a quarter-life crisis over the summer and panicked because if I wasn’t going to be a teacher like I had planned for the last several years of my life, what was I going to do?”

Brown had previously boasted a double major in English, concentrating in Theatre and Secondary Education. Having taken countless courses based around getting certified with a teaching degree, the switch was sudden.

“I started to realize that I didn’t want to be a teacher in the spring when I started tutoring in the local school district,” says Brown. “I realized I had no interest in what I was doing.”

A realization like this can be difficult, especially when it comes right before the final year of college. With so little time to plan, dropping an entire major can be an incredibly daunting prospect.

Perhaps even more daunting is the prospect of telling one’s parents. With them being the main benefactors in funding the college venture, they have a lot riding on the success of their children too. When a switch comes at such a late date, it is nerve wracking when wondering what their reaction may be to wasted money on courses that no longer matter.

“To my surprise, my parents were both supportive of whatever dreams I wanted to chase in my life,” says Brown, laughing in spite of the awkward situation.

In the end, Brown realized that he needed to make the decision based on what he felt would benefit him the most in the future. Going through the process of obtaining a degree that will never turn out to be helpful could be just as bad as resigning yourself to a life in a job you are forced to silently despise.

Instead, Brown has decided to pursue a career in the casting industry. His involvement in theatre has lead him to believe this to be a better fit for him as he has enjoyed the process of casting in some of the theatre club’s shows.

Careers for after graduation are a central concern for college students.

Careers for after graduation are a central concern for college students.

“I could have finished out my college career with an education major,” says Brown. “But I didn’t want to go through the pains and time commitment of student teaching when I could focus on my new career switch.”

As one can well imagine, Brown is not the only college student who struggles with the dreaded topic of what their major should be. Though others my experience this dilemma a little earlier on in their college career, it does not make the process any less painful.

Tristan Rowley, a freshman, is currently an undeclared major and is going through the tedious steps of deciding what she would like to study for the rest of her years at Marist.

“The reason I came in undeclared is simply because I was not sure what direction I wanted to go in,” she says.

Being undeclared is a very unique college experience. Unlike coming into college with a major already declared, a student will spend the first couple of semesters or so taking a variety of courses others may not have to go through in order to figure out what it is they would like to devote the next few years studying.

“Being undeclared allows you to test your strengths and weaknesses in all areas,” says Rowley. “Like most students, I don’t know what those strengths and weaknesses are.”

In the minds of students, it seems that there is so much on the line as far as a major is concerned. Locking yourself into one course of study and hoping to build a career starting with a few years at school, is intimidating, especially when one stops to consider they may end up discovering they have made a mistake.

“I’m still nervous about declaring a major, spending time and energy for it, and then realizing it’s not for me,” says Rowley. “I hope to plan out my next semester so that I can try a few different things and get a strong understanding of what it is I’m truly interested in, let alone good at!”

Much like Brown, sophomore Alex Polzun, has also abandoned a major he once thought would prove to be his life’s calling.

“When I picked a major of political science it was because I thought that it would be the best major for the profession I wanted” Polzun says.

Polzun was in for a rude awakening his freshman year of college as the classes he took which focused on his major were some of the worst academic experiences he had.

“Once I was really doing work for those classes, I realized that my heart was not in it,” he says. “I never wanted to go to those classes, I never wanted to do the work for them because they just didn’t grab my attention like they should have.”

Polzun managed to realize this mistake early on and was, thankfully, able to make a switch that gave him plenty of time to regroup. However, unlike Brown, Polzun’s change of heart led him toward teaching.

“Honestly, I’m doing so much better in terms of grades and overall happiness,” says Polzun, smiling at the thought. “My advice for anyone considering switching their major is to do what you enjoy doing and can see yourself making a career out of.”

Like others, Polzun realizes the tremendous amount of pressure placed on students entering college. When given such daunting prospects during a time when so much is already expected of them, it is easy to crumble under the pressure.

Having gone through this ordeal himself, he truly understands the situation and hopes to help any and all who come to him with the same type of dilemma.

“It’s pretty scary that at eighteen years old we are expected to pick what career we want and what we will ultimately be doing for the rest of our lives,” he says. “It’s okay not to know just yet and to change it if something is not right for you.”

Students are not the only ones who share this sentiment about majors. Kevin Lerner, a Assistant Professor of Journalism at Marist College also has a similar opinion about changing majors and their overall importance after graduation.

“You get to a certain point where nobody looks at your undergraduate degree,” Lerner says, referencing the fact that experience will stick out a lot more than what a student majored in.

Lerner is also keen to point out the significance of Marist College’s Liberal Arts program. With its mandatory core, the school provides students with guaranteed exposure to a variety of subjects that they may not have thought to investigate further. As one could probably guess, this can lead to some life altering decisions.

Lerner agrees with Polzun that the idea of settling into a definitive life path is both unsettling and impractical to people just entering college.

“As far as life goes, you are not settled into who you are as a human being at eighteen,” says Lerner.

Out of all those speaking, the ending answer is quite clear. Though majors are a great way to get extra information on a subject that is of interest and potential life importance to someone, they do not define an individual and they are far from ever being set in stone.

In the end, despite the inconvenience and stress it presented, Brown was thankful he realized his passion did not lie with teaching sooner rather than later.

“It was an abrupt change in my life, but it was a good wake-up call that I need so I wasn’t stuck in a job that I didn’t love doing,” says Brown.

Now embarking upon a career path that is much less certain than his former one in education, he continues to remain positive, very aware that his change in major will ultimately make him happier as a result.

“Although my future still seems uncertain, I’m doing the best that I can to make a smooth adjustment and work towards a career that I have a passion for.”

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