Whether you have no idea what you want to do with your life or you’ve always had it figured out, it’s important to keep an open mind when you get to college. There’s always a possibility that you will change your mind once you think your course is set. I learned this the hard way.
Around sixth grade, I decided that computers are pretty neat and I wanted to study computer science like my parents. In high school, I took the introductory computer programming course and was always at least a week ahead in the lessons (my teacher was very hands-off and all the lessons were available on the classroom server). I enjoyed this and took Advanced Placement computer science the next year. I also joined my school’s FIRST Robotics team, where I helped out with different parts of robot conceptualization and construction. When my senior year of high school came around, I noted my dedication to studying computer science on my college applications. To my delight, I was accepted directly into the computer science program here at the University of Washington (apparently an impressive feat, though I honestly didn’t and still don’t see how I stood out enough for this).
I was all set for a competitive computer science degree and a career as a software engineer; I was pursuing my dream. The first quarter of my freshman year went well. The second was a little rougher with my first junior level computer science course as there are only a couple of introductory courses, but I made it through the class and enjoyed myself. During my third quarter, however, I realized how much I hated being a computer science major. Being a little ahead in credits from Advanced Placement courses, I was a sophomore at this point, though I was still only a first-year college student in a third-year level computer science course. I was having a little trouble with some of the concepts, but more than that I just didn’t like any part of the assignments.
Around this time, I also had a major episode of my social and general anxiety getting the best of me and essentially crippling my ability to get to all of my classes and focus. It’s hard to say whether this was brought on by school or if it was simply concurrent, but either way it led to me getting a hardship withdrawal on that course at the end of the quarter. It was a really hard time for me, and I felt lost; my future went from clear to uncertain, as if the ground was yanked out from under me. Over the summer, I got my anxiety under control so that by the next autumn quarter, I was ready to try again. I was feeling a lot better, but I did end up dropping my computer science course partway through. This time, I was really done with computer science. The only problem was what to do next.
I had always been fond of my English and literature courses and taken one almost every quarter, but I was also (and still am) acutely aware of the common stereotype that English majors can’t find jobs. Therefore, this was not high on my list of potential majors. Instead, I decided to explore Informatics and Communications by taking their respective survey courses. Though I found both to be interesting, I couldn’t help but feel like pursuing either one would simply be as a means for employment, not because I truly enjoyed it enough to dedicate a large portion of my life to it.
During the spring quarter of my second year (now junior standing), I finally allowed myself to admit my passion for writing. I made the decision to seriously pursue an English degree, despite the difficulty of telling everyone about this choice. Once I broke the news, with some better-than-expected responses, I was happy. I felt like my soul had been freed from a heavy burden and I could finally start living my life.
College is full of difficult, character changing moments and events that change the course of one’s entire life. Though this sounds intimidating, it is important to remember that most everyone who pursues a higher education has these experiences; you are not alone. When you feel overwhelmed, talking your peers and learning about their journeys can help. Finding out that nobody else really knows exactly what they’re doing can be reassuring. With that, here is one final piece of advice for everyone: figure out what helps keep you grounded and always be persistent if you find yourself struggling.