Story by Avery Gregurich
When asking elementary school students what they want to be when they grow up, potential answers run the gamut from “practical,” (fireman, cop, doctor, veterinarian), to “unusal” (NFL quarterback, astronaut, ballet dancer, Elvis impersonator).
Now some of these kids’ career ambitions change daily, some even hourly. Others hold fast to these early aspirations far past this initial questioning into their tumultuous teenage years, where high school and hormones work in tandem to change their plans. And then college hits and the world they thought they knew becomes tragically different.
“I can major in philosophy and microbiology?”
“Can I make poetry my real major?”
“Wait, how much is tuition?”
Suddenly, students are forced to make a decision about how they want to not only spend their lives but how they want to finance themselves. College used to be a place where one’s interests could be found and careers could be discovered while in the safe realm of academia.
Now, the landscape has changed due to astronomical tuition costs and an unforgiving economy that constantly warns us of its fallacies. If one chooses a major, then decides it’s not for him or her, he or she is left holding a few electives at best and forced to start the process all over again. Some still practice this old school approach.
Sophomore Adam Sickley had long envisioned himself swinging clubs on pristine courses in his career as a professional golfer.
When he stepped onto campus, however, he realized that that dream wasn’t in the cards. He decided he needed to find a career a little bit more “realistic,” but wasn’t sure what that was. He spent his first two semesters technically titled as an “undecided” major, but has since decided to become an accounting and finance major.
“My dad said that it is one of the most basic skills you got to have,” Sickley said. “It’s good to know how to manage your money and it leaves quite a few options open.”
Sickley doesn’t regret his decision and actually recommends his academic path to incoming first-years, saying, “There is plenty of time to figure out what career you want to go into,” and that if your dream career isn’t what you thought it was going to be, “you still have time to change majors.”
Sophomore Lisa Lerman’s story is similar to Sickley’s. She grew up wanting to be a teacher because she believed that was a way to do good in the world.
“I wanted to help people, and that seemed like a good way to do it,” Lerman said.
Upon coming to college, though, Lerman realized there was more than just one way to help others. Keeping her mind open, she too was titled an undecided student, a title that she still carries.
While her career aspirations are far from being set in stone, she believes that she wants to work in a non-profit and fulfill her childhood dream of helping people. To attain this position, she is contemplating joining the business school.
However, Lerman doesn’t regret her undecided decision because she enjoys the freedom it offers and it has allowed her to take classes all over campus.
“I’ve taken classes in every school except education,” Lerman said.
Her one warning to incoming students is this: “Don’t wait this long to figure it out.”
An undecided major is one way to figure out exactly what you want to do for a career, but trial and error is another way of coming to that knowledge.
Take sophomore Megan Auren for example. Her childhood aspirations were very specific: wedding planner. High school reared its ugly head, though, and convinced her to pursue a degree in health sciences. With her parents firmly backing her, she started job shadowing with physicians.
Auren quickly lost passion, feeling that she wanted to establish “more of a relationship” with the people she was helping.
After crossing health sciences off the list, she was determined to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a wedding planner, pursuing degrees in both marketing and public relations.
This decision still has her a little nervous about her finances, stating that a “career in medicine is more monetary.” But she’s quick to point out that money isn’t everything by quoting Mumford and Sons’ now famous line, “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”
Like Sickley and Lerman, she doesn’t regret ruling options out. She advises students to, “Keep in touch with yourself” and to “be in a place you are happy with,” somewhere Auren certainly is.
“I feel good about it now. It’s exciting,” Auren said.
It seems that college is still a place of self-discovery, reconciling what you thought you knew about yourself with what reality is able to offer you.
The hardest part seems to be convincing the 8-year-oldversion of yourself that you aren’t giving up on your dreams, just adjusting to the rules. A key step because , let’s face it, that little guy is sticking around until the end.