College: Not the Place to Fall in Line

All my life I have wanted to go against the grain. I’ve never wanted to fit in because I knew I was born to stand out. That’s why I relish the surprised look I get when people find out that I am a World Champion Martial Artist, or that I play golf, or even that I’m an unusual mix of Filipino and Indian. I identify quite strongly with the parts of me that make me different. So, why is it that upon arrival to Duke University, I do exactly the opposite? I toe the line. I decided I want to major in the most commonly studied major at Duke: economics.

via: Collegefactual

Let’s analyze my, along with many other students’ (cognizant or not), short-lived dream of studying economics.

Being accepted into Duke University can be both intimidating and invigorating. After first committing to Duke and letting my imagination run wild in the summer before Freshman year, I felt excited and confident in my academic abilities. I’m not saying that I’m not confident in them now, I’m just saying that I’m starting to realize what I’m good at, and what I’m bad at. The main thing is, it’s okay to be bad at some things.  

Prior to starting classes, I figured that if I have been accepted to Duke, I should be able to run with the pack. I should be able to keep up. I should be able to thrive in economics. These expectations propelled me into countless hours of creating a four year projection plan, laying out every course I would need in a logical order, considering every possible factor. When numerous upperclassmen told me that I would undoubtedly deviate from this rigid four year plan, I brushed them off and said “Don’t worry, I’ll stick to it.” Having, what felt like at the time, all the confidence in the world, made me feel like I could accomplish anything. While it may be empowering to feel like you can do anything you set your mind to, blindly jumping into a field of study that impacts the next four years of your life is not ideal.

The next factor that made me think I, someone who has never taken an economics class in her life, should dedicate the next four years to studying it, was the deeply buried insecurity and uncertainty of what happens after college. A major in economics felt like the safest, most secure degree I could get at Duke, which would ensure me a job after graduation. The problem here, is that I want to go to law school. I can major in absolutely anything that I want and still gain admission into the top law schools in the country as long as I maintain a high GPA. Not feeling sure of my future convinced me that a major in economics would equate to monetary success in life. Sure, pursuing this path may be the fastest way to get on Wall Street, but my personal definition of success also encompasses doing what I truly enjoy, and economics is not that.

The last factor in my hasty and short-lived decision to major in economics was my parents. Both of them are criminal defense attorneys that majored in political science. They always told me to major in something “practical.” Hoping to make them proud, I figured that economics would fit that bill.

So, what made me realize that picking a major is not a one size fits all process, and that economics is not for me? Well for starters, a C on my math midterm clued me in pretty well that math, an integral part of economics, is not my strong suit. Secondly, when asked why I want to study economics, I couldn't answer with the same passion as I could about psychology.

via: Quotefancy

As I sat in on a talk with an alumnae from Duke, he gave us some advice: find what you’re good at and what you love, then figure out a way to make them overlap. This advice resonated with me. I hope that through exploration of self and academia, I can accomplish a way to overlap my strengths and my passions. My list of strengths definitely does not include math, and my list of passions does not include economics.

Lastly, a 1.5 day visit back home sealed the deal. Through this experience I was reminded that my parents just want the best for me. I put so much pressure on myself to please them that I forgot about my own happiness. I was willing to sacrifice what gets me excited, what makes me tick, and what makes me want to come to class everyday, for what I thought was a “practical” degree. Everything is what you make of it. Though I am still uncertain of what the future holds, I am excited to explore what I am truly passionate about.