College orientation: if it was anything like mine at Boston University, it included confetti, a tour of the huge campus, an introduction to those icky communal bathrooms, and starting to feel like a college student. Our student advisor sat us down as we attempted to pick classes, leafing through the massive manual of classes, my group sat there simultaneously dumbfounded and excited.The question of the day ranged from person to person but included things like, “What do I take?” “What do I want to do?” “Am I sure I want to go into this profession?” and finally, “What am I doing here?” The student advisors and staff running orientation championed two thoughts – take want we want and get a degree. But there isn’t time to take everything that interests you and be able to walk across a stage and throw a graduation cap in four years. So how do you go from college disorientation to graduating (and doing so happily)?
Step one: take a deep breath. You will figure it out. But you have to do a few things first. I left high school with a clear intention for college and beyond. When my Dad asked what I wanted to do when I was 16, I replied, “I want to be a pediatric psychologist for chronically ill children and work at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City.” He took this in and grinned, and then asked, “What floor will you be working on?” I shrugged and he laughed, saying, “Jennie, you’re so unprepared.”
I think there are two kinds of people in college – there are people with the blinders on and there are the people in need of glasses. The blinder kids know what they want and they’re full force ahead. The really-need glasses kids want to know what they want, but aren’t fully sure in any direction. But there’s issues with both, the kids with blinders on may miss amazing opportunities to grow as a person and an academic, while the kid who needs glasses may be aimless and frustrated.
The first question you need to ask is what makes you come alive. To paraphrase a famous BU grad, Howard Thurman, we shouldn’t ask what the world needs and instead make ourselves want makes us feel alive, because that is what the world needs.
Second – go and talk to people. Start with your advisor and find out more about how your interests and can translated into a major. Then make an appointment with the head of that department on campus and chat about career possibilities. Google the subject and email new people. Those who are in the field you want can give you a better idea of what kind of future you’d be looking at.
Third – take a minute. Sit down in a quiet place and evaluate everything you’ve learned and read and heard and felt and make a decision – does this feel right? Are you psyched about the major and the impact you will have? Remember, you can always double major, add minors, and take classes that are jut out of interest.
But here’s perhaps the most important thing to remember: it’s okay to change your mind. Something that excites you now, may not be so thrilling in a year. The trick is finding something that is continually exciting, that will fulfilling long-term. Even if you used to dream of being a teacher, and now performing arts is what makes you come alive – switch it up. To cheesily quote a Greek figure in ancient Greek drama, “Reason and heart shall gives you words.”
Do what feels right to you. Ask for guidance by the expert and try a class to see how you like it. Get picky, it’s your life and you have the right to live a passionate and full one.
Jennie David is a 20 year old junior at Boston University majoring in Psychology and minoring in English. She is a member of NSCS and Psi Chi and is a dual citizen of both Canada and the US. She has Crohn’s Disease and is the chair of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada’s Youth Advisory Council. Her career goal is to be a pediatric psychologist for chronically ill children. Visit her blog about the upcoming Peru trip here.