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It’s Okay to Not Know What to Study in College

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

“So, what are you studying?”

I think I speak on behalf of all college students when I say this is one of the most anxiety-inducing questions that we can be asked, and it can be fairly difficult to answer. The intense stigma surrounding your major and knowing what you’d like to study is hard on students and is quite the stressor.  

It seems like the second you put down your deposit and throw your college name in your Instagram bio, everyone wants to know what you’re studying. Worse, it sometimes feels like everyone around you knows what they’re doing already, and even more panicking arises. Questions of doubt can pop up in your head when you’re least expecting them, such as: Am I running out of time? Should I already know this? Does this make me look bad? What if I choose something that will make me unhappy?

As someone who has changed her major twice and still hasn’t even wrapped up her freshman year, let me say, I get it. With the world changing so quickly around us, it can feel overwhelming, and it’s hard to find stability in a world of chaos. In times of doubt and uncertainty, however, it’s crucial that we take a step back and accept the fact that things change.

College is about experimenting: finding what styles you like, finding the right friend group, trying new things, etc. But that experimentation can extend into the classroom as well. Your time in college should be spent taking courses that interest you, trying classes that are out of your comfort zone and exploring the different things your school has to offer. That way, with a wide variety of coursework and experience, it can make it a bit easier to make a permanent decision regarding your major.  

I was admitted to college with the intention of sticking to the major I had originally chosen. After a summer of reflecting and endless hours of research, however, I made it to campus with an entirely different major than the one I began with. I was so excited to be taking fun courses, and I was so sure this would be the one for me.

After the first semester ended, I had another one of those moments of self-doubt. I spent the entire winter break researching other majors, looking into careers, reading personal blogs and doing anything in my power to understand endless realms of possibility. When I came back to campus for my second semester, I was already planning for a new major.  

Most people will tell you that when you doubt yourself, you’re just having a bad moment in the semester. Everyone has days like that, but the truth is our intuition rarely lies to us. It’s important to listen to your gut and take those risks if it will bring you happiness in the end, regardless of what the journey may look like. It happens to almost everyone; in fact, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 80 percent of students in college switch their major. 

Almost nobody knows what they truly want the first time around.

But if you’re lost and don’t know what to do, don’t panic. It’s normal to not know what the future holds, and that should not be a source of immense stress. Rather than letting society coerce you into quickly picking a major, let life guide you at the pace that’s right for you. Not everyone is admitted to college with a clear goal in mind, and not everyone ends up being happy with what they initially choose to study. 

It’s okay to make changes, and it’s okay to take time to reevaluate, no matter how scary or intimidating it seems. Eventually, you will find what’s right for you. 

Lizzie is a fourth-year student at The Ohio State University, where she studies English on a pre-education route with a minor in Professional Writing. She has written for various publications, including The Lantern and Columbus Jewish News. She currently works as a Professional Writing Intern at The Ohio State University Airport, where she composes articles and social media content. When she's not writing, Lizzie loves shopping, listening to music, going on walks, spending time with friends and reading.