The Rollercoaster to Deciding My Major: The Young Female Dilemma

         Four years of high school seemed to be an eternity as I dreamed of the freedom and adventures college would bring.  After only my freshman year, I was ready to move past these tedious high school subjects and dig into something world-changing. I aspired anything from medical school to crime scene investigation, or even to flying an airplane!  Indeed, the possibilities were ceaseless in my mind.  

         The dreaming was cut far too short however when the opinions of others began to offer more discouragement than guidance.  I recall the first time an older man told me “I did not seem to have a mind for math and science” and “how I seemed more artistic than logical.” For the first time ever, I pondered my own abilities and became hyper-aware of my grades in math and the sciences. With the acquiring of my first job at age 16, the intrusive comments only became more frequent.          For some reason, the older men in that small town thought it appropriate to offer remarks on everything from the way I dressed to the way I completed my job.  I was told on countless occasions how “airheaded” I was.  Of course, nobody wants to be viewed this way, but without any countering encouragement to be heard I allowed the comments to begin shaping the way I saw the future and how I envisioned myself.  My father encouraged college attendance, but, at this time, my “airheaded” self was petrified at the thought of failing. I began to believe success may simply be out of reach.  

         One evening as I was closing in the coffee shop a much older college-aged guy asked me about my future goals.  When I responded with dreams of college and travel he asked me “Do you want to have a family one day?”  I said “Well, yes, one day.”  His response dazed me.  

The man said, “If you want to have a family one day, why waste your time and money with college and travel?”  

How was I supposed to respond?  

         My dreams suddenly were deemed naive and I began to feel that maybe my purpose in life was to one day be a wife and mother.  The worst part of it all? This thought did not appear all that unacceptable to me. 

         It was not until my senior year of high school that, finally, a couple of people entered my life and began to offer encouragement in the way it should have been all along. The first was an elder gentleman named Frode who told me to “work as hard as I can and get my education”. He encouraged me that things like marriage could wait, saying “now is your time”.  This was the first time someone had said this.

          The biggest turning point came when I met a young lady attending CU Boulder.  She told me all about her degree in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.  Her research intrigued me and she told me “college is what you make it, you can’t just show up and expect to suddenly know it all; it takes a lot of work, but it is all so rewarding.”  This was the first time someone explained how scientific/mathematic mentality was not simply a skill people are born with- it is something that requires extensive hours of determination and labor.

         These two pieces of advice stayed in my heart, and without them I would not have overcome the next hurdle in my education career.  The first year of University I found myself stuck in “friendship” with some people who quite frankly only sought a daily ego boost.  There were two men in particular who almost made it their daily task to put me in my place.  They relentlessly inferred that I was not STEM-minded; that I would never be able to handle a degree as hard as theirs.  Honestly, it almost got to me; it broke my heart and caused even more second-guessing. I mean if even a friend was saying it, it must be somewhat true, right?

         Wrong.  In this time the words of encouragement from Frode and the MCDB student shined through. I took a senior level course about Neuroscience, and I maintained that I was just as capable at STEM as those boys. I succeeded in the senior level course and cut off contact with the discouragers.  Finally, I officially declared a major in Biomedical Sciences with the hope of working in the field of Neuroscience.

         Since then, my passion and love of science has only grown. More and more fields such as genetics, nursing and ophthalmology have gained my attention.  To this day, the rollercoaster that brought me here is something I could not be more grateful for.  It opened my eyes to several issues young females still face in America, as well as ways to combat them.

         I wanted to write this article as encouragement to anyone who has been tormented by the same degrading thought and situations; to anyone who finds themselves desiring more from their college education; to anyone who feels they are not “smart enough” for a certain major.  I wanted to offer some of the same encouragement that delivered strength during the times that nearly brought me to quitting, so I will leave you with these statements:

          You are capable of anything- and I mean ANYTHING. 

          Nobody wakes up a genius or highly talented; it takes work, determination and self-control.

          Now is your time. Balance your options and run, full-speed, at your dreams and the things that grow your passion.

          Discouraging friendships are not really friendships at all.

          In all of this: stay kind and be a light.  Offer the same encouragement you desire to others.

Dear reader, You. Got. This