In the fall of your senior year of high school, you begin the stress of filling out college applications. You fill out pages about your background, high school classes, extracurriculars, essays, and then you stumble onto the drop-down box titled "Major." For most people, this is where the panic hits. You think to yourself, "What do I want to do for the rest of my life?"
Some people know automatically. Maybe they want to go Pre-Med, so they major in Biology, Chem, Neuroscience, etc. Maybe they want to go into a specific business field like Accounting, Finance, or Actuarial Science. Some people know exactly what they want to do in their future career, but most people don't.
You always hear, "Don't get a tattoo when you're 18 because you might regret it," yet you're basically expected to decide your career before you're 20 years old.
I had no idea what career I wanted to go into when choosing my major during my senior year, so I chose a major that I was interested in — Philosophy.
"Have fun working at McDonald's" is something no one actually said to me, but I could tell that when I told them my major their thoughts were somewhere in that vicinity. My dad thought that I was making a huge mistake and wasting my potential by going for that major. I encouraged him to research the skills learned during, and the average salary of, the Philosophy major. He realized that it was a great major! A philosophy student learns critical thinking, analysis, and strong writing skills, which are valuable to all careers.
I was excited.
Like I said before, Philosophy was something that I was super interested in and I was excited to take classes for it in college. My plan was to double major with Marketing and get a certificate (comparable to a Minor) in Spanish.
When I attended one of the Future Badgers orientations, my plan was thrown a little off track.
I learned that UW-Madison does not offer a certificate in Spanish for non-Business majors. In addition, I learned that you had to apply and be accepted into the School of Business in order to major in Marketing, and the School of Business at UW-Madison is extremely competitive and difficult to get into when you're not a direct admit. The school I did apply to was the Honors College of Letters & Science for Philosophy.
I was upset when I realized that I had messed up. By not knowing that I had to directly apply to the business school, I had missed out on the opportunity to follow one of my possible career paths. I thought, "Well it's okay, I really like Philosophy so I can find another major to pair with that and I'll be good!"
You might be thinking, "Why Philosophy in the first place though?" Well, the truth is that I was interested in Philosophy because I struggled with finding meaning in life, happiness, and sometimes existence (don't we all?). I knew that Philosophy was a subject that explored those concepts, so I figured that I could find my answers there.
In reality, the various ideas of what meaning in life and happiness were just made me mad. Why are these people telling me what MY meaning in life is? What should make ME happy? I realized that only I could determine my meaning, find my own happiness, and use both of those to calm my thoughts about existence. In philosophical terms, I fall into the category of a subjectivist (take a Philosophy class to find out what that means!!).
I didn't want to hear other people's theories because I had finally figured mine out. By the second semester of my freshman year, I realized that I no longer wanted to major in Philosophy.
I went into college strongly believing that I wouldn't be one of those students who changed their major, even though I was repeatedly told that many students do and it's okay. See, I'm the type of person who likes to stick to her plan at all costs, so the thought of having to create a whole new plan put me into full-blown panic mode.
Since I decided against the Philosophy major, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and therefore I didn't know what classes to take for the next semester.
I frantically began researching other degrees within the College of Letters & Science, and nothing really stood out to me. I panicked when thinking that I might never find a major that I'm truly dedicated to. I took a step back, realized that I still had about a month until I had to schedule, and then set my quarter-life crisis aside for a while.
After spring break, I was getting closer to having to schedule fall classes, and I knew that I had to figure my plan out.
I thought about what I liked to do, and writing instantly came to mind. I mean, I've been writing for Odyssey for a while so I've not only had more experience, but I've also increased my love of writing. Whenever I tell people that I write for Odyssey, they ask me, "Are you a Journalism major?" and I've always said no, but now I'm thinking yes.
I decided to look into the Journalism program here at UW-Madison, and found out that there is a Strategic Communications track which focuses on advertising, PR, and marketing. Writing and marketing? Perfect! I finally figured out my plan: Major in Strategic Communications with a Certificate in Business. I get to combine my love of writing and my interest in the marketing career field.
What I learned from all of this is that it's okay to not know your major, to make mistakes, to not know what you want to do for a career, and to change your whole path. Focus on doing what you love and don't be afraid if things don't work out how you expected them to.
My favorite way to look at life is that every wrong turn is an opportunity.