One of the things I would do differently if I could do college over again is wait before deciding definitively on a major and minor. I went into my BA knowing that I wanted to be an English literature major and a secondary education minor, and that left me little room for changing my mind. After all, I had course quotas to fill. I got so wrapped up in getting ahead on the necessary courses that I missed out on taking a lot of other courses that I had initially been interested in, like pottery or political science. There were certainly signs along the way that indicated I might have made a hasty decision. The first was that I didn’t do so well in my English 100 level course. The second was that I didn’t particularly enjoy my English course, although I enjoyed the instructor and still liked reading fiction. The third was that I really enjoyed courses outside of my discipline, like a logic course I took my sophomore year to fulfill a math requirement, the political science course I took just for fun my senior year, and the sociology of education course I had to take as part of my education minor in my last semester before student teaching. If I had taken time to make a decision and really thought about what I was doing and where I wanted to go, I might have realized that while I enjoyed and would always enjoy reading fiction, I did not enjoy analyzing it. I should also have realized that while I seemed to be good at writing papers, I didn’t enjoy writing papers.
Of course, I didn’t connect the dots until after I had already applied to and been accepted to graduate school in, you guessed it, English literature. The feelings of doubt I had managed to put off for four years came back to haunt me over my year-long MA program. As I drifted listlessly through courses on Blake and Stoker, I realized that I was frantic to get out of academia all together.
The point of this cautionary tale? Don’t be blind like I was. College isn’t a race to the finish, and you certainly have time in your first year to explore your options. Maybe you’ll require an extra semester if you decide to major in a certain field, but ultimately I’ve decided that a little extra money is nothing compared to having a degree in a subject area you don’t particularly enjoy. While I’m certainly glad to have my BA (and, in a few months, my MA), I do have some feelings of wistfulness and dare I say regret when I look back at my academic career. And in hindsight, I certainly wouldn’t have dismissed those undeclared majors so hastily. After all, maybe they’re the ones who actually know what’s going on.