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Please Don’t Stress About Your Major

It’s rare to find a college student that hasn’t changed their major at least once. Which is unsurprising, because it’s pretty unreasonable to expect a teenager to be certain about anything at all, let alone the career path they will presumably spend the rest of their life pursuing. If you find yourself feeling lost or unsure about the degree program you’re in and whether or not you should change it, know that you’re definitely not alone.

I’ve bounced around to almost every department starting with English, meandering over to environmental science and eventually chemistry, and even a quick pit stop in anthropology. It wasn’t until late last year that I settled on journalism as my final resting place. But, even as a junior with the majority of my degree completed already, I still don’t feel very confident that journalism is the most ideal career field for me. But instead of losing any more sleep over all the doubts I’ve been having, I have decided to stop worrying about my major entirely and just focus on the task at hand: earning a degree.

There seems to be a general consensus that you should always change your major if you feel like your current one isn’t the right fit. While I see that as a wise sentiment for underclassmen to take to heart, there comes to be a “point of no return” in your academic progress when going back to take a different path could actually be quite detrimental to your success. 

Last semester I considered changing my major once again, but it would’ve set back my graduation date by at least a full year. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a fifth-year senior – in fact, five years of undergrad for a bachelor’s degree is becoming an increasingly common reality. College has gotten a lot harder and a lot more expensive since our parents’ generation was attending, and rigor and affordability are some of the key factors in determining the plausibility of completing a degree in the standard amount of time.

In my case, I had a gut feeling that tacking on another year with a full course load would be the last proverbial nail in sealing my degree’s coffin. And I’m assuming many students can relate to that, judging by the ever-growing number of people I know that have dropped out, and the many more who are still in school but regularly have thoughts of dropping out. Sometimes it seems like the closer I get to graduation, the farther out of reach it feels, since fatigue, worry and stress compound with every midterm or finals season that comes to pass. 

It may not be a universal truth, but this is what I tell myself to stay sane: Just get a degree, any degree, because that’s what you came here to do – all that really matters is that you leave with a degree. For extra reassurance, I decided to actually count this out, and it’s true – I have known more adults in my life that did not build a career around the specific concentration of their degree than ones that did. That eases a lot of my anxieties about the future because while yes, there is certainly a part of me that would love to be working as a journalist in the coming years, there are many other parts of me that would prefer a different outcome.

I know there are going to be some decisive, self-trusting readers out there that can’t relate to me or these words. If that’s you, I salute you and quite frankly, I’m jealous. But, I also know there are plenty of you out there who feel my pain about how frustrating it is to doubt every decision you’ve ever made and never feel like you’ve done or are doing what you truly should be. If like me, you’re prone to these everyday existential crises, then I hope you have found some comfort and camaraderie in the thoughts I shared.

Images by Shreya Susarla

Noelle is a senior at VCU pursuing a B.I.S. with a minor in Media Studies. She knows this will be of great use to her when her lifelong dream of becoming a stand-up comedian is actualized. When she's not working at the animal shelter, or busy avoiding her schoolwork by doing yoga, you can find her attempting to sleep while her cats do everything in their power to prevent it.
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