Op-Ed: Dear Sophomores and First-Years, Choose the Major You Like – Yes, It’s Really That Simple

Photo courtesy of Samantha Milowitz. 

By Ali Husaini || Contributing Writer 

While we begin to wrap up what has been a tumultuous year, we reach the time when sophomores must undergo the rite of passage as old as time itself: Major Declaration. This is the time of year when there are a flurry of Major Declaration sheets requested from the Registrar’s Office, as sophomores rush to announce to the F&M community and the rest of the world that they have finally chosen a major. And just as the tradition of major declaration is as old as time, so is the tradition of Mom or Dad asking “What could you possibly do with that degree?” and “How much money will you make if you major in X?”

As someone who has grappled with these questions before as a Government major (only to find out that they are ridiculous and misleading questions), and who initially felt the need to defend my choice of a major to both myself and others, I notice that many of my peers have internalized these fears of whether or not the job market will reward their choice. Every now and then, I hear about a first-year or sophomore who abandoned aspirations to major in something in order to find a major that is more “practical” or that seems more “employable” or acceptable to Mom and Dad. Some of my professors have even told me about how they have had to intervene and make calls to parents because of students being discouraged by family members from majoring in something they enjoy. It disappoints me to hear about students who set aside their intellectual passions out of fear of defying their parents’ wishes or of not getting a job after graduation. 

So for all of my sophomore and first-year peers who are in the process of choosing a major or thinking about which major to declare next year, I have some great advice for you: 

Just choose the major you like. Yes, it really is that simple.

Don’t fall for the myth that somehow your major will decide every single job you ever hold or that your major will set your salary in stone for life. In fact, more and more employers are starting to care less and less about what your major was in college. Employers want to know that you are flexible enough to learn new skills, that you can communicate effectively, and that you are willing and able to apply critical thinking to solve problems. Last I checked, these are all skills F&M teaches you regardless of your major. If you don’t believe me, check out the True Blue Network, where you will find several F&M alumni who have taken jobs and gone into careers totally unrelated to their major.

The path of least resistance may very well be to listen to Mom and Dad and to give up your dreams and academic aspirations. It’s probably easy to throw your hands up and accept that your passion won’t pay the bills. But just because it’s easy doesn’t make it right. Abandoning your aspirations and sidelining your enthusiasm out of an unfounded fear of the workforce doesn’t do justice to your potential. 

After all, it will not be Mom or Dad who takes the exams. It will not be Mom or Dad who sits through hours and hours of class for semester after semester. It will not be Mom or Dad who writes every paper and studies each chapter of all the textbooks. You will do all of these things. So if you’re going to do all of that work, you should enjoy it. And if you don’t, then the next two or three years, which are supposed to be the “best years of your life” as they say, will be miserable.

So if you are a sophomore who is staring at the ceiling worrying about what to write on the Major Declaration form, understand that it need not be such a complicated decision. Choose your major based on what you like to study and which classes you enjoy taking. Major in the subject that you find yourself obsessed with and fascinated by: the subject where writing the essays and doing the readings is not merely a chore but a rewarding experience. Find that subject that you want to continue to learn about, even beyond your time in the classroom. Commit to that discipline in which you feel you are being challenged and pushed to rethink your own fundamental assumptions. If you love two subjects equally and are sure that a double major is right for you, then go for it. If you want to make use of your option to minor in something, by all means do it. 

Alternatively, if you are a first-year who is already thinking about what major to declare next year, I would certainly recommend that you take some time to figure out exactly what interests you. Take classes in several departments, and really make use of those distribution requirements. You may already think you know what you want to major in, but it only takes one class for all of those plans to change. Embrace the uncertainty. College is the time to experiment and to truly experience this intellectual growth.

No matter the decision you ultimately end up making, just remember that you must be true to yourself. These are your four years at F&M, not anyone else’s. You are in the driver’s seat, so don’t let anyone make you lose sight of the fact that you are in control. In the end, if being true to yourself and choosing the major you like requires ruffling a few feathers, so be it.

Junior Ali Husaini is a contributing writer. His email is ahusaini@fandm.edu

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