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The 4 Stages of Major Acceptance

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CNU chapter.

If there is anything I have learned about the United States’ college system in the time I have been enrolled in a university, it is that the organization is a mechanism for cranking out competent young folks in a timely manner by condensing all of that pesky “coming-of-age” and “self-discovery” hullabaloo into a neat and tidy four year period.

While I admire the goal and am a fan of efficiency, there are a few snags that naturally occur in any expedited process. Often, the consumers (in this case the students) either do not get the best quality product (the product is an education) or they do not even get the product they really wanted. That is what this ol’ chunk of writing is all about: using the following steps to get you to major acceptance so you can start learning the skills to lead a life you love, and avoid going into a mid-life crisis and defaulting on your mortgage because you sunk all of your money into “skin rejuvenating Amazonian tree frog nectar” and some flashy sports car.

Oh, wrong picture… Whatever, this works too. 

1. Denial

The first step is always the hardest to take, especially because denial prevents you from even recognizing there is a step to take at all. Denial afflicts the students who are settling into majors they are not truly interested in building a career upon because they think it is the most useful or lucrative thing to study. Where did this idea that we have to sacrifice our passions and devote our lives to the “greater good” come from? Oh, right, society created the idea. *ominous music*  

Now, I am going to make a disclaimer here. I love all of you science majors. I thoroughly enjoy learning about astronomy and geology and biology and all of those spectacular, universe-unlocking subjects, and I pride myself on being a scientifically-literate voter. However, I am trying to ground this argument in reality and I just do not often come across stories of fathers disowning their sons for abandoning their Greek classics studies to pursue degrees in theoretical mathematics.

But, DAD, abstract algebra is my life!

I am going to point the golden finger of truth here and say our education system currently values the hard sciences and society-building subjects like economics and law over studying music and literature and other humanities. The issue I have with that last statement is the inclusion of the word “over” because what it means is our society is valuing a field of study more than it values the aspirations of an individual human.

This sounds like I am telling all of you to toss your graduated cylinders and legal pads into the garbage and to go sit under a tree and write poetry, but this article is for you. If you are tired of teachers dragging you to art museums and you stay up late reading atmospheric chemistry textbooks by flashlight while everyone else in your artistically-inclined family is asleep, then by golly this article is still for you! 

We convince ourselves to major in subjects other people tell us are the “right” ones to study, and then push the doubts and questions out of our own heads, steeling ourselves for the march forward into the next four years of stress and unhappiness we are told will all be worth it in thirty years when we are making six-figure salaries. 

2. Stagnation

Ah, here is the most horrible of all the stages. In the stagnation stage, you begin to realize you are not living up to your educational potential. It is not that your grades are not where you think they should be; you see the quality of your work, especially compared to your classmates’, as deserving of those poor grades that stab at your heart whenever you log onto Scholar. 

You have hit a wall and you begin to wonder if you are actually just stupid, or lazy, or if marathoning all of “Breaking Bad on Netflix really did melt your brain like your mom said it would.

Fear not, for we have the wise words of someone who was probably not Albert Einstein to shake us from our stupor, and to show us that we can begin to move forward again, and this time in the direction we honestly want to go.

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 

You are never going to get up there, you idiot.

3. Introspection

Did you ever see “The Lord of The Rings” or read the books? Of course you have. Otherwise, I would have to stop making these references.

Young Frodo Baggins had his destiny thrust upon him in the shape of a golden ring and to the tune of a very long walk to a very hot volcano. Unfortunately for him, when a wizard comes to you with a quest, there really is no choice. However, the magnificent truth is that most of us are not living under the crushing responsibility to save Middle Earth from certain doom at the (hands?) of a disembodied eyeball, and are free to choose our own destinies.  

I see you… but can you see yourself?

College is the perfect place to take the time for a little bit of introspection. Look at who you are today, figure out who you want to grow into, and decide what you are going to do every day to become that person. Stop pretending that even though you hate what you are studying now, it is all going to be worth it in some distant future that other people have told you is the best option.

You have to let all of that go, find that pipe dream that keeps you up at night, and shine a light on it. Be unafraid to tell others who you really want to be. Do not lie to yourself because despite popular opinion, that is not really something we are capable of. The truth will sit inside of you and keep metaphorically poking and flicking you until you eventually let that truth out – or go crazy.

4. Acceptance

There is not much to say about this stage besides telling you that once you get here life gets a lot more fun and way more rewarding. Acceptance means you go for what you want and are unabashed, even in the face of a group of biology majors rolling their eyes and loudly scoffing at the idea that theater is even a “real” thing to major in. (I do not want to be getting angry emails from bio majors complaining about my pigeonholing and prejudicial assumption because I know y’all know I heard you saying that exact thing in the library two days ago.) 

Look at you! You are finally where you want to be, and although there are still many personal and academic challenges and growth to come, you will now thrive and run forward to meet those challenges because you are finally inspired by the classes you are taking and the future you are building for yourself.

5. Cosmic Validation

You: Hold up just a minute… you told us there were only four steps toward major acceptance… and we already reached the “acceptance” step! What is this fifth step you have so sneakily snuck into the end of your article?

Me: Well, my intelligent and heart-wrenchingly ravishing readers, I will tell you just what the heck is up with the sneaky fifth step I have dubbed “cosmic validation.”

Do not be thrown by the transcendental language – this concept is still firmly grounded in reality. I am just using poetic terminology to get you into a world-conquering, life-contemplating kind of mood.

When you accept yourself and begin acting upon your desires, the world opens wide and falls into line in ways it never had before. Suddenly, your energy to do homework increases tenfold and brilliant ideas for class essays start coming to you in the shower. Instead of dreading the prospect of summer internships, you seek them out with zeal. The people you meet in your chosen area of study are far less intimidating than those in the major you had dropped, and you sense you can build a constructive and supportive work environment with these people: one where you know you belong.

Please enjoy this photograph of the Pillars of Creation and know that while there are scores of stars being born in those vast dust clouds far off into space, an even greater star is being born right here, in you. (Please excuse my horrible cheesiness.) 

Nothing like some space to put everything into perspective.