Imagine this: you've dreamed of being a successful engineer since the ripe age of seven. You have the entire process planned out, from taking higher level math and science courses in middle and high school, to joining engineering-based organizations, to which top tier college you will attend and where you will work after graduation. Oh wait, you forgot to mention graduate school! If you don't enroll in graduate school, this grand, masterful plan has "failure" written all over it. You have to follow these steps to a T. You have to. Besides, you have full control over your future. Right?
I'm sure many students, including myself, yearn for the life and thought process of the person I described above. While I was in high school, I desperately wanted to be someone who had specific career goals laid out, who knew exactly what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. Up until senior year, I did not have the slightest clue as to what I would major in, while it seemed that everyone around me had clear inclinations for business, science, or medicine. It's a disconcerting feeling initially, but after experiencing a semester of college, my fears proved to be unfounded.
I have definitely met people here who possess an unwavering sense of purpose and direction in their lives, whether it be working to enhance the role of sustainable energy, or being part of a 5 year Masters program. And although I don't necessarily envy them now, I do have immense respect for their unflinching commitment to their goals. I was surprised, however, that the majority of students I've interacted with are either uncertain, or have absolutely no idea, about what to pursue. I was afraid to select "Undecided" on my applications, because I thought it would alert colleges to the fact that I don't have any concrete aspirations. I've realized, after talking to numerous "Undecided" students, that it may not have been such a ludicrous idea after all.
The problem with having your heart set on a certain career trajectory in college is that it leaves little room for error and experimentation. I cannot control every turn my life takes because there is no way to plan for contingencies. That is both a boon and a burden, as although it is exciting to leave the future shrouded in mystery, the myriad of paths I can go down is daunting. College encourages you to focus on the boon, that uncertainty is preferable because it allows for exploration of what interests you, and who you want to become in four years. And even if you decide on a particular major, as long as you keep an open mind throughout the experience, you may end up in quite a different place from where you started. The possibilities of what will occur on any given day are endless, and so being flexible and having a receptive attitude makes all the difference.
Prior to applying for college, I hadn't considered engineering at all. To my surprise, as well as my parents', I declared as a chemical engineering major, on the assumption that I would enjoy chemical applications in a technical field. So although my four years are highly structured in terms of coursework, I do have opportunities to stray from the beaten path and engage in interesting electives. It is in those classes that Forrest Gump's voice will echo through my mind, repeating his mama's famous saying. I love it and what it embodies, but I think it needs a little bit of editing.
Even though life is like a box of chocolates, and I don't know what I'm gonna get, I can't wait to dive in there and try every single one.