Is It Such a Major Deal?

by MARIA RACARDIO '16

"What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question that we’ve all been asked countless times. As children, we didn’t think much about our answers, replying “president,” “a singer” or “an astronaut.” But now that we are in high school, the question of what we are going to be requires a serious thought. We need to decide what we are going to major in at college, and it can seem like an ominous decision. It is scary to decide what we want to do with the rest of our lives when we are only teenagers. But what impact do these decisions that we are making in high school have?

It’s okay to be undecided: When you fill out your college applications at the beginning of senior year, you will be asked to declare a major. But what if you frequently change your mind about what you want to be and do? According to Purdue University, about 80% of people enter college not knowing what they want to do, even if they have declared a major. “The most important thing is to have a general idea of what you like and don’t like. You don’t need to know exactly what you want to be,” says Mrs. Fontaine, a junior and senior counselor here at St. Ursula. Mr. Stickel, a St. Ursula math teacher, suggests that “if you don’t know what you want to do, go to a big school with a lot of elective opportunities. Take a variety of classes that interest you and you will find what you are passionate about.”

You can change your major: Even after you’ve decided on a major, your life can still change. You may be majoring in economics, but then feel drawn to study theatre. “There will be so many teachers and other people that you will come across in college and after who will influence you towards the right plan for you,” says Mrs. Fontaine. Fortunately, you can change your major. 50% of college students change their major at least once; many change it 2 or 3 times. Just because you’ve declared a major does not mean that it is set in stone.

Your life can change at any time: Keep in mind, a major is not a career. Most majors lend themselves to myriad possible career options. So even after you graduate from college, you still have choices and opportunities about your life and career. “Every experience and job will help you figure out who you are and what you like and don’t like,” says Mrs. Fontaine. A major does not define your life; your life can change at any time. For example, did you know that Mr. Stickel used to be an engineer? “I was an engineer for 33 years and I realized that I really liked the teaching aspects of my job, such as training new engineers, so I went back to school and got my masters in education.” When he was a freshman in college, he had no idea that he would one day be a teacher. In fact, he entered college undecided.

So while it is definitely important to give some thought to your future, choosing your college major might not be the “end-all, be-all” decision that it seems.