When I was in high school, I had big dreams of writing commercial jingles for the rest of my life. So, when I picked a university, I looked for somewhere with a stellar music program and a solid college of mass communication. However, after one AP music theory class my senior year, I decided music was not the career for me. Consequently, I entered college not knowing a thing about what I wanted to do. The first semester I was in college, someone told me a career in public relations would be good for me because I was particularly skilled in manipulating people. For three years of my college career, I was a public relations major. I learned how to write press releases, media alerts, and even represented a client for a semester. I was on the right track to become someone’s publicist one day. When I had one class left to complete my major, when it was time to file my intent to graduate and upper division forms, I panicked. I realized I hated PR and loathed the idea of lying for a living. Why three years in? What made me see the light and change my major?
Public relations is in the school of journalism. So I was required to take some classes and labs on reporting. In my reporting lab, we edited footage for a video journalism project, and I fell in love with the whole process. I realized how much I loved editing and creating film, and how much I loathed sending media alerts and dealing with pissy clients. I changed my major to video production and kept my writing minor, and I’ve never been happier. My only regret is that I wasted so much time and money figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. To prevent you, reader, from doing the same, here are six things you should consider before you decide your life’s trajectory:
1. What are you interested in?
This question seems very generic and could really pertain to anything; but it is a vital question to ask yourself when deciding what you want to do during your college career. The key to being
happy with your career is to find something you love to do, then find someone crazy enough to pay you for it. So consider the hobbies you’ve kept throughout your life. When I was a kid, I made videos with my friends and edited them on my family’s computer with crappy software that came with Windows. Now, I make videos with my friends, then edit them on my school’s computers with fancy software my department bought. Had I considered how much I enjoyed my filmmaking hobby and realized I could make money doing it, maybe I wouldn’t have wasted three years of my life groveling over profiles and press releases.
2. Now, really, what interests you?
Chances are–no scratch that–you will change in college. Ideally, college is the first time you live on your own and support yourself independently. As much as we all hate to admit it, our parent’s influence is a major factor in shaping our personalities. When we move out, we’re free to do…well, whatever the hell we want, and the results always vary. Part of the college experience is self discovery; when no one is around to tell us how to live, we’re free to become whoever we’d like to be. So pay attention to yourself. I wanted to be a professional musician in high school. Now, while I still consider myself a musician (even though I’m just a drummer), I’d much rather someone call me a filmmaker–my music notes are now frames. Priorities change, interests change, so ask yourself what’s really important to you.
3. Can you do it?
Let’s say I want to be an engineer. I suck at math. I wouldn’t be able to pass the math classes an engineering major demands. Be honest with yourself. If you love art but can’t draw, you probably shouldn’t major in art, because you will be expected to produce just as many art pieces as you love. Perhaps if that’s the case, you should consider a humanities major with an art history concentration. Then you would still be able to study art and save the world from seeing your lacking pieces. Let me clarify: you shouldn’t doubt yourself, just consider what will be demanded of you and decide whether or not you can meet expectations.
4. Will this make you money one day?
If you plan on majoring in psychology or philosophy, but you don’t want to attend graduate school, don’t plan on having a job you love upon graduation. Generic majors get you generic jobs. What you study in college decides what experience you have to offer on your resume. So research the field you want to get into. Find out how much money you want to make, then find out what’s possible with your degree. Sure, psychology is super interesting, but unless you want to be a clinical psychologist and stick around for graduate school, you won’t be happy with the salary (or lack there of) you’ll be earning.
5. Be prepared to change at any moment.
Like I said, college is a time of a lot of self discovery and personal growth. Let yourself entertain the thought of switching fields. The average college student will change his or her major nine times before he or she graduates. Exploring different fields is okay. If you’re between two majors and just can’t decide, take a class in each department. Know that you will change, so your major will too. Consider your options, and try them out. I promise, it’s okay. If you force yourself to stick with a major you’re unhappy with, that’s a horrible omen to how you’ll feel with a job in your field. Stay open minded and realize that clicking “declare major” is not as concrete as it sounds.
6. Do what makes you happy.
If you’ve considered all of the above, weighed all your options and still have decided you want to major in underwater basket weaving, fuckin’ do it. Notice that throughout this entire article I never wrote “do what [insert authority figure here] tells you to do.” Choosing a major shouldn’t be anyone’s choice but your own. It’s your life, so make sure that when you look back on your time in college, you’re happy with the choices you’ve made.
Be smart, be careful, and be happy.