Why I Declared My Major During My First Semester of College

To say that my life has changed over the past four months would be an understatement. It’s done a complete 180! In case you missed it, here’s a recap: I moved from the bustling city of Baltimore, Maryland to central Pennsylvania; I began living on my “own” for the first time, have met hundreds of new people, adjusted to living with said people, joined about 100+ clubs, stayed up way past my early bedtime of 10 PM; and, last but not least, buried dead mice behind my building.

With all this change, there is one thing that has remained consistent: my passion for English. It’s hard to put a time stamp on when my obsession with reading and writing began. My parents say it was as early as when I was a toddler. Each night, I would stack as many books as I possibly could at the end of my bed, only to wake up with a ragged copy of Frog and Toad on my face. As I progressed throughout school, writing also became an interest, and I ended up becoming a writing tutor for my high school, which I loved! For me, English was always in the plan.

When I came to Dickinson, I was immediately struck by the incredible English department and all of the amazing options I had for classes. If I hadn’t recognized it before, I definitely knew it now: this is what I wanted to spend the next four years of my life focusing on and, ultimately, devote my career to.

Not so fast, I remember thinking. This is your first semester of college. Remember what everyone has told you: don’t rush into it too quickly. Explore other interests. You shouldn’t have life all figured out already. These words haunted me throughout the first half of my fall semester. Like all first-year students, I wanted to be able to keep an open mind. I didn’t want to be that person who “had it all figured out” so early. Nearly every time I told someone in high school that I wanted to be an English major in college, I was usually met with the same discouraging response, “Oh, that’s nice, but you’re only eighteen, you have your whole life ahead of you! You’ll find something else along the way.”

As someone who doubts herself a lot, I let those people get to me. I began to think that maybe they were right. Whenever my new college friends asked what I planned on studying, I responded, “Oh, probably English… but I’m still up in the air about it.” Spoiler alert: I was never up in the air about it. It got to a point that when I saw all the opportunities in the literary world that I was missing out on around campus, I just couldn’t ignore that studying English felt right to me.

Declaring my major wasn’t something I planned on doing when I woke up last Wednesday morning. What I had planned on doing was going to be meet with my professor about a John Donne poem; however, something told me to ask about course selection for next semester instead. I began to ramble about which classes I wanted to take, and how excited I was to declare a major in English next year. My professor (and now advisor) cut me off and asked me the question I had been afraid to ask myself for so long: “Why not now?”

Why not now? Those three words filled my ears as if the rest of the world went silent for a minute. This was a question that for months, for years, I had been struggling to answer. Suddenly, all of the other people who had discouraged me in high school seemed irrelevant. I had been holding back and that wasn’t fair to me. This was my choice, my path and, frankly, something I would have ended up doing six months later anyway.

I’ll admit that walking into the registrar’s office not having any credits completed wasn’t the most popular or common decision, but like I said, it felt right. Not only do I feel liberated in the sense that the English department is now my oyster, but since then, I’ve felt a shift in myself, too. Even though I chose to declare so early on, I don’t have a clear path for my life. Most of the time, I don’t know how to manage my daily life and call home crying about things as self-explanatory as stain removal, but that’s okay. College is all about growing, learning and discovery in your own time. I wish that I hadn’t held back and been afraid of what others thought of me. Dickinson is a place where you can chase your dreams and have confidence in what you want to pursue, and people will support you whether you come across that realization early freshman or late senior year. If you know that you’re passionate about something, do yourself a favor, Collegiette, and ask yourself: “Why not now?”