Attention high school seniors, this is the time when I’ll talk directly to you. There’s one question you’re going to be asked over and over again for the foreseeable future.
“What are you going to study?”
This question is killer because it seems like it’s the only thing people care to ask about. Trust me when I say that you’re going to get really good at answering. So much so that you’ll be able to answer while tapping your head, rubbing your stomach and jumping up and down. You might even start reciting your planned major in your sleep. It’ll become second nature.
But, depending on what your plans are this constant link of questioning can get a little stressful. You might know exactly what they want to do because you’ve wanted to do it for as long as you can remember. Or, maybe you have absolutely no idea what’s next outside of going to college. Or you’re somewhere in between where you have an idea of what you’ll study, but haven’t committed.
If you do know what you want to do, you’re not free from stressful questions either. Unless you’re choosing a major with a clear direction after graduation - like teaching, nursing, or accounting - often there’s a dreaded follow up question.
“What do you want to do with THAT?”
Now, on top of knowing the general direction you want to go in during school, you’re expected to know your future career path. This is always interesting because for whatever reason, we have it ingrained in our minds that in making this decision we’re deciding on the job that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.
Which, depending on your work history might seem more than a little crazy.
Maybe you never even had a high school job. How are you supposed to imagine a full-time career? Also, is whatever you’re going to do destined to be your career for 40 years? Maybe, maybe not - so how are you supposed to imagine where you’ll be, knowing that in 10 years it may have changed once, twice, even three times?
The fact that we have to ‘choose’ this part of our identity so early in life is bizarre and even a bit comical. At 18 we shouldn’t be given that kind of power and/or influence because there is so much we have yet to learn.
The exploration of majors, colleges, careers and, above all else, the search for ourselves can be overwhelming. So if this line of questioning and pressure to plan your future has you stressed out, I have good news for you. It’s OK to be undecided about your major (and even your future). If you don’t know what you want to major in, you’re still going to be alright.
During the first two years at Augustana you’ll take what we call learning perspectives courses (a.k.a. general education requirements).These classes give you a foundation in the arts, sciences, human values, literature, history and more.
Every student must take perspective courses to get a well-rounded liberal arts education. They’re also required to graduate. These classes are particularly helpful for students who haven’t declared a major yet. Undecided students come in with a blank slate and can try a little bit of everything.
It might seem like these classes aren’t really important, but my best advice is not to take them for granted. This is your chance to explore and you might even discover a field that you’re passionate about.
Students don’t have to officially declare a major until their sophomore year in college, so there’s no rush to jump into major classes. As long as you choose a major within the first two years, you’ll be able graduate on time because while you’re deciding you’ll be taking perspectives and getting those graduation requirements out of the way. Declaring your major earlier doesn’t reduce your required perspective course hours.
Now you might be asking yourself, “Where will I go from there?”
Even if you come in as undecided, Augustana won’t leave you high and dry.
Offices on campus like CORE will help you continue to search for what you like and what you don’t. Do a career search, talk to your professors, or even start asking members of your network (teachers, neighbors, family, coaches, etc.) about what their career path has been like.
People can do a lot of cool and unexpected things with the majors they study and I bet you’ll be surprised to hear what people studied and how it lead them to where they are in their lives.
Beyond all of the choices you probably have in front of you, you have the power to create opportunities if you work hard and demonstrate your strengths.
Choosing a major is a big deal - yes, but it’s also your decision. Therefore, listen to your gut and know that you’ll end up doing what is best for you, even if the major you choose doesn’t have a clear-cut career path.
There are so many fields to explore - so try to stay open minded. Trust your instincts if you don’t know exactly what you want to do yet and simply choose something that you love to do or choose something that you are curious about. You’ll never get away from other people’s questions.
Even as a senior here, when I introduce myself to someone and tell them I’m at school, one of the first things they’ll ask me is “What are you studying?” “What is your major?”
This narrative tells a lot of people who I am, what I like to do, who I potentially want to be. This question and answer exchange is an occasion that I once dreaded, but now love to be part of because for a moment, I get to show the world who I’ve become and you all will too.