Throughout high school, I was positive about the future I wanted to create for myself. I planned to go to an Ivy League School (or West Point), start on a pre-law track, eventually get accepted to law school, and finally start my career off as a lawyer. If you would have told my former self about the trajectory I am on now, I would have died of a heart attack. For starters, I am here at Rhodes, which is a great school, but not the Ivy League institution I had always envisioned myself attending. I hated my political science classes – classes I was certain to need to continue on to my pre-law track, and I am about to sign a contract with my ROTC program at the University of Memphis which locks me into eight years of service as an officer in the United States Army. To top it all off, I unexpectedly added a second major, and now I am a Computer Science (which I am still not sure about) and Spanish double major. The path I am currently on is nothing like what I had pictured for myself, but it is one that I am happy with and currently have no regrets about.
Because of my uncertainty about my major coming into school, I am currently playing catch-up so I can graduate on time, which will mean having to overload on credits for the next few semesters along with a few summer classes (hopefully). The issue is that I am only a first-semester sophomore. Why is it that the lack of direction from my freshman year has damned me for the next few years to come? College, especially a liberal arts institution like Rhodes, is consistently marketed as a place to explore and find your passion in life. Apparently, unless you find that passion in the first semester of your freshman year, you are doomed to fall victim to the domino effect of falling behind in your classes. Looking through my school’s major requirement guide, most majors indicate that you must be on your major’s track before the end of your freshman year to graduate on time. However, this system allows little leeway for doubt. I came into Rhodes ready to take the school by storm as a political science major, eager to set myself up to attend a prestigious law school. Once I started on my political science track, it was apparent that this was not the path for me. Because of this, I had to change gears completely and attempt to find another career path that interested me. If we’re being honest now, I am not even 100% sure Computer Science and Spanish are the right path for me. But do I have the time to give it proper thought? Not unless I want to graduate on time.
Normally, I would say that it does not matter how long it takes someone to graduate, but in my case, my commitment to the Army does put me in a bind. Even being at a liberal arts school as compared to a traditional college does not seem to alleviate that burden. Instead of gen-eds, Rhodes requires twelve foundation credits (48 credits) in a variety of subjects to be completed before graduation. This is almost the same amount as my Computer Science and Spanish degrees, which require 53 and 36 credits, respectively. Though it aims to allow room for students to explore, the lengthy foundations requirements only further prevent one from exploring topics they are interested in. College is a place to hone your skills and prepare yourself for a future career; however, it would be naïve to believe that college is a playground that allows you ample time to explore what you are truly passionate about. With that being said, it is impossible to know what you are truly interested in before you try it. So don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t quite sure what you want to do with the rest of your life after a year in college. A degree is a degree – no matter how long it takes to get it.