As class registration starts picking up for the spring 2022 semester, you can feel the stress bouncing off the walls in any building on campus. Will you get the classes you need? Is this professor really your best option? Do you have to take that 8:30 a.m. lecture? And the most dangerous question of them all, of course: is this really what I want? Being a junior, the problem of me not knowing what I am doing after graduation is starting to move to the forefront of my mind. I’ve changed majors, explored new careers and applied for internships, but I am still really lost and confused. But is it necessary to have it all planned out before you make your trek across the stage to receive your diploma? Is it OK to still be confused or figuring things out?
When you graduate, you get your name on a piece of paper that says you know a great deal about a said subject and have done a lot of work to prove it. But if this subject is so important to our future, why do only 27.3 percent of college graduates have a job related to their major? Part of the reason, obviously, is because jobs are hard to find, and sometimes you have to deviate from your original plan. But another primary reason is that your college major isn’t a defining factor in your path of life. Sometimes science majors go on to work in publishing companies, and English majors become doctors. So, why do we stress about finding our majors?
The concept of an undergraduate major stems from the University of Virginia. In 1825, the university asked students to stick with specific specializations or areas of focus. Obviously, a lot has changed since 1825. Instead of the University of Virginia’s eight general areas of studies, most colleges now offer hundreds of options across majors, minors and tracks. While these paths may help some people on the way to their dream job, there is still room to explore other options. There seems to be a lot of pressure to choose one major and a lot of stigma with changing it. Binghamton University’s Harpur College of Arts and Sciences, for example, typically has students declare a major before their fifth semester when students are typically juniors in academic standing. This is difficult because I had the standing of a first-semester junior during the first semester of my sophomore year. I had no chance to explore what I wanted, do internships within different fields or explore classes in different areas before declaring a major. Forbes Magazine contributor Ashley Stahl told readers that it is their experience that stands out to employers rather than their major itself. In other words, what you do with your time in college is more important than what you study. You may have completed your major and graduated, but what’s most important is your time spent away from the books gaining work experience.
In continuation, your major doesn’t have to align with your job in order to make money. According to Stahl, studies have shown that some history majors who pursued careers in business ended up earning just as much money as business majors. So, you can definitely take the time to explore majors and tracks without harming your future paycheck. Not to mention, those majors that some people consider useless are actually teaching you life skills that can be applied to many things. Writing skills and analytical thinking can take you far — they are some of the most valued career skills. It doesn’t matter if you learned it in a “Game of Thrones”-themed writing class or a neuroscience laboratory. Your future is what you make of it, not what classes you took when you were 19 years old. If you’re confused about your major and how to get a job after, you are not alone. Just remember that it’s a journey, and graduation isn’t the destination. Your adult life is.
Overall, don’t stress about finding the perfect major or perfect classes or even the perfect job. You don’t have to have it all planned out now. Finding your way is a part of growing up, and it isn’t finalized in college. We should be encouraged to take gap years, apply for jobs we don’t have all the requirements for and take chances on new careers. Taking a break and experiencing new things is fine. Your major isn’t always your future. So to everyone else who is worried about the upcoming semesters, it’s all a part of college and growing up. You will be OK.
Nicolette Cavallaro is a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience.