College is rough. There are endless expectations, endless events to fill your calendar and endless pages of textbooks to read. There’s a seemingly endless flow of tests to study for and papers to write. Whether you are attending college on a scholarship or paying full tuition, you have dedicated four years of your life to this journey. And yes, it’s a journey that includes ups and downs and laughter and tears. I can promise you that the path to graduation day is not going to be easy, but when you hold that diploma, you will know the personal journey and the mountains you overcame to get to that day. So, if you are going to go through this journey, pay all this money and take all this time to learn about things that will hopefully get you a job, you might as well make the most of your time by making your major something that you want, that you feel confident in and that you believe will make you ready to take on the “real world”.
Personally, I went into college undecided, then “decided” on marketing. I took all the prerequisites, had the G.P.A. for COX Business School and to others I probably seemed like I had things set. False. When I got home each day, I would cry about failing a test. I would lose confidence when I did not understand the class material, and when I asked questions, I wouldn’t understand the professor’s answers. I got bogged down by the “cutthroat” atmosphere. I saw so many people thriving and in my eyes these students seemed to be cruising through these business classes with ease, while I thought I was the only one struggling. It led to me being too hard on myself and thinking I was not smart and not good enough.
In reality, 61% of college students switch their major at least once before graduation. I did not think I was in that 61%, because I was set on marketing and thought it was the only path for me. While taking “Free Speech and the First Amendment” at SMU, I ran into my professor in the bathroom (of all places… awkward) and she opened my eyes to the fact that there was a world outside of business and there was not one path to where you want to end up. She casually asked me what I was studying and when I replied marketing, she recommended that I talk to another professor in her field about studying public relations, because based on my questions in class and the way I interact with others, she thought I would be the perfect fit for public relations and communications. While studying business, I had never had a teacher talk to me outside of class, let alone pay attention to my mannerisms in her class enough to recommend a specific major. A teacher cared about me and I felt so touched that she went out of her way to have this conversation with me. I left this encounter inspired to find a major that made me feel as confident as my professor just made me feel.
After this encounter, I thought about the reasons I was trying to get into COX, and I realized I was only studying business for the following reasons:
-It is a degree that will give me a certain ranking in the Dallas community.
-It is what other people told me to study because it will get me a “real” job.
-It will make me money.
When I realized that none of the above reasons involved passion or interest, and all of my rationale was based on what other people said and how other people would view me, I left COX for good and it was riveting! Since then, I have pursued public relations, as well as minors in English and advertising. I decided on these fields of study because I thought about the following:
-What do I want to do with my life?
-What type of things do I want people to say about me when I am in my profession?
-What are specific things about my business school classes that make me lack confidence and how can I find a major that creates confidence for me?
-What type of job I would be happy with later in life? Would I enjoy this job regardless of my paycheck?
-What is my dream job and is there a major or minor that could help me make that a reality?
I realized that a job I get from a degree in COX might be a more prestigious job to some people, but if I have to wake up every morning and feel unintelligent, unwanted and unable, what is the point when instead I can do something I wake up and feel excited to go learn about, and I feel confident to speak about and inspired to pursue.
If I could give and undergraduate student a list of advice after my experience, I would say:
-If you are doubting your major choice, write down a list of reasons why you are pursuing that major and see if those reasons are personal reasons or reasons other people have given you.
-Even if you think you know what you want to study, talk to your advisor about the type of job you want in the future, and the different paths that could get you there.
-Understand that if your parents are helping pay for college, their input and opinion matters, but at the end of the day, they aren’t going to be the one with a job at the end of this, you are, and you should like that job.
-Do NOT compare yourself to your friends or classmates. Everyone struggles in college and everyone expresses their struggles differently. You never know people’s past experiences. That kid sitting next to you who got a 95% on the test you just failed could have a parent that is in this field of study which gives them an advantage. You will be nicer to yourself if you stop comparing to others.
-Pay attention to what non-academic hobbies you enjoy, and see if there is a career path in that field. (I love blogging, writing, and social media, and I realized that all of these non-academic interests could apply to a job in public relations or advertising.)