College. It’s the place where you discover your passions, find yourself and become who you were always meant to be. However, these stereotypes don’t always apply to everyone. What about those of us who are a little lost? We took the required classes in high school and then were thrown into the deep end at college, where the options are endless. Maybe a little too endless. Which would be fine, if it didn’t feel like everyone around you had a complete life plan the moment they moved into their dorm. Yet, here’s a little secret. No one has any clue what they’re doing. We’re all along for the ride.
It’s important to address what I believe is one of the contributing factors to the hassle of the uncertainty when deciding on a major. The concern is the countless accelerated courses offered at an increasing number of high schools now. For many students, Advanced Placement classes, International Baccalaureate classes and Dual-Degree programs have become expected when applying for colleges. The more college-level classes taken, the better your application looks. For students who are not sure what they want to major in, coming into college with 45 credits means you immediately start taking classes for a specific major. Not always a plus. Those classes from high school that transfer over as college credits are money-savers, but if you are not sure about a major to start taking classes in, that saved money could cancel out. Don’t get me wrong, I personally was happy about not having to take endless credits for general education classes, but being thrust into junior-level college classes without the certainty of a major proved a major stressor my freshman year. Some advice to try and amend this problem? Check and see if a major requires elective courses. You can gain credits towards a degree without serious commitment and some electives transfer over to a variety of majors.
Coming in with a lot of credits is a hassle to those who are ambiguous in their degree decisions, but arguably it’s nothing compared to the pressure students face in college. Being surrounded by people who know exactly what they want and are working towards a specific goal can be demoralizing. It can cause doubt and anxiety about your own goals and cause you to choose a path just to please others. This can be especially tough at an academically challenging university where worth is determined by your major and what job offers you might get. Remember that only you can determine your worth and everyone has a different path. No need to become an accountant or lawyer just because the person next to you is.
Now we cannot forget about the age-old solution to the “I don’t know what I want to major in” dilemma. The gap year. A year-long hiatus between high school graduation and the start of freshman year. (Also, could be after college but let’s not get into that.) Gap years have become an increasingly popular way to prolong college to travel, volunteer or work, usually with the goal of “finding yourself.” Gap years can be beneficial, but they are not for everyone. Some people might find it as an effective way to hone in passions and interests. However, others might find a gap year stressful and anxiety-inducing. Feelings of being left behind and not magically discovering your passion in life can all happen during a gap year. It really depends on the person and countless articles are advocating for it or discouraging it. Whether you take a gap year or not, be productive and proactive with your time. Volunteer with an organization that interests you. Shadow in a profession that you could see yourself working in. Ask everyone you know what they are studying in case you hear about a major you’ve never even heard of. You can’t expect to suddenly know what you want to do in life without getting out there and trying a variety of experiences.
So, to answer the overarching question, yes. It is completely okay to have no idea what you’re doing. It’s OK to graduate and still have no idea what you’re doing. According to a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 27% of college graduates end up working in a field related to their major. And if that percentage wasn’t enough to help you relax, remember that though it might seem like everyone knows what they’re doing, chances are they don’t. Everyone is a little lost, but the fact is that we’re all a little lost together.