When applying to colleges, one of the first questions the prospective college asks you is "What is your intended major?" Sure, there's an "undeclared" option for those who haven't settled on a major yet, but considering how quick they are to ask you about your major in an application, it gives the implication that colleges really want you to have your whole life planned out.
As you move further into the application and reach the essay questions, you may find yourself with a prompt along the lines of "How did you decide what you wanted to study?" or "Why are you pursuing the career you chose?" This puts further pressure on you to choose an actual field of study.
As you submit your applications around the holidays, you sit at Thanksgiving dinners or holidays parties and older family members pester you about your studies, asking you about your plans for the future and where you expect your life to play out over the next ten years. You have no answer, and it terrifies you.
The stigma associated with college and the college experience focuses heavily on the notion that everyone must know exactly what he or she wants at any given moment. It's become a bit of a joke on the internet about how stressful it is when people ask you about your future, but it really shouldn't be that way.
The fact that people are hardwired to be ashamed of not having a plan is not only detrimental to choosing a career that's a good fit for you, but also adds an immense amount of unneeded stress. Speaking from personal experience, I can give it to you straight: it's not that big of a deal.
Ever since I was three years old I dreamed of being a marine veterinarian. I watched videos of scuba divers on Youtube, I applied to colleges with a major in Marine Biology, and I wrote my college essays about how living on a boat helped me appreciate the ocean. Everyone knew me as the whale-lover and the future whale-saver. Then I took a college-level biology class.
My 10:30 Biology 1 class was quite literally ruining my life. I would study for a week straight and still score lower than a 65 on every single exam. Not only were my grades suffering, but I was miserable. The thought that I should be studying stuck in the back of my head like a dull ache during every second of free time I had. I felt like I was wasting my college tuition and failing as a college student because of the struggles I was going through as a STEM student.
My fellow students were there to complain and struggle with me, but they still found every lesson fascinating and were eager to learn more. I could not be more bored with a subject. I mean, I understand that cells make the world go 'round, but I could truly give a lesser shit about how they reproduce.
I realized about three weeks into the class that I was unfit to be a science major. I was struggling with intermediate algebra, so the thought of taking calculus terrified me. I dreaded going to class, even though my classmates adored the subject matter we were learning about. I decided that for now, I should switch my major to undeclared, and it was terrifying. I didn't want to be the person that didn't have a plan. I didn't want to not have an answer when people asked me what my true passion was in life. I loved the ocean, I loved animals, and I didn't want to stray from the comfort of knowing that I had it all figured out. But I swallowed my pride and dropped my major, and it was the best decision of my college career.
By the end of my first semester at school, I had done my research and settled on a new major: Journalism. I was warned by friends that this might not be the end of the road for me, that I might take one journalism class and find myself back where I started, hating my studies. I'm happy to report that they were wrong and that I've found my true passion. I love every bit of what I'm learning, and find it so much easier to be proud of the work I submit. My grades have skyrocketed, my stress levels are lower than they've ever been, and I'm happy.
The months I spent convincing myself that I was meant to be a science major was some of the worst for me educationally, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. If you're in my position and you can't stand school, take a look at what you're studying. Do some research into the majors that your college offers, and allow yourself to think, "What if?"
If you're applying to colleges and your application forces you to select a major, don't be afraid to choose "undeclared." I promise you it won't affect your admission to the school. There are so many people out there that are in your position.
I changed my major twice, and it wasn't the end of the world. It was actually the beginning of my world. I'm excited to learn and grow as a student. I'm starting to develop a plan for my future. If you feel like changing majors is the right decision for you, don't hesitate. Take the time you need to discover where your true passion lies because I promise you that you will find it. Ignore the stigma that you need to have your life planned out.
Just take it one day at a time.