Wannado City was an amusement park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There were no roller coasters, Tilt-A-Whirls or zeppole. Instead, kids spent the day indoors, trying out different professions. You could be a firefighter, a police officer, a doctor, a writer, an archaeologist, a model, a nail technician, a chef, a bank teller, an actor and more. Going to Wannado City meant participating in a day of trial and error. It allowed little kids to figure out what they liked and didn’t like. Why isn’t there a Wannado City for college students?
At 18, we are expected to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives. When we apply to colleges, we have to have some semblance of an idea of what we want to do. We have to decide while we’re applying to college. When applying to Binghamton University, we already have to know if we want to be in Harpur College, Watson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, School of Management (SOM), Decker School of Nursing or more. While still in high school, you have to know if you are going into engineering or arts and sciences.
Once you enter college, you are confined. There is not much room to figure out what you like. Your intro classes are broad, rushed and condensed. History 103A: Foundations Of America is not necessarily enough to help you decide that you want to be a history major, but you’re terrified of falling behind, so you don’t spend time on history classes. You just move on to your next general education requirement, checking off boxes toward getting your degree.
Most of us don’t declare a major until junior year. While that sounds like we have some time to figure it out, we don’t. We don’t spend the first two years of college trying new things and deciding what we like, and then spend the last two getting our degree. From freshman year, we take classes geared toward our major, fulfilling requirements and applying for internships. By the time you declare your major, you’re halfway done with it.
Not only is there a limited amount of time to try new things because we’re told we need to graduate in four years, sometimes we aren’t even allowed to figure out what we want. For example, you can’t take business classes unless you’re in SOM, but what if you’re an English major who wants to go into marketing or open a publishing company?
While taking our classes, we also fight to get internships. While internships are important for résumé building, they are also useful for getting experience. An internship allows students this trial and error that classes do not. If you get a marketing internship and hate it, you may realize that marketing is a career choice you can cross off your list. If you love it, you may decide it’s what you want to do for the rest of your life. The problem is, if you are even able to get an internship, you can only get one you are qualified for. If there is an opportunity to shadow a doctor, it will go to a pre-med student, which is definitely fair, but means that because I did not choose that career path in high school, or early in college, I can never try it out. The chemistry major will never know if she loves law, and the engineering major won’t know if he really enjoys art, because once your high school self picks a path, you are stuck.
I believe allowing students more time to explore their options and opening classes to students of all majors is the first step to fixing this problem. I also believe that short internship programs and shadowing opportunities should be available to students of all majors. College students need their own Wannado City. We need to be able to try and fail to realize we are in love with things we could have never pictured ourselves doing, to explore and to get reassurance that we are on the right path, or to completely change our paths if we aren’t.
Sophie Miller is a sophomore majoring in English.