The summer before my freshman year at USF I was prompted by an academic advisor to choose a major before registering for classes. I remember scrolling through the list of departments and classes on the USF website and feeling entirely overwhelmed by the array of options. I felt like nearly every department had something interesting to offer and classes that I wanted to take. Many of my friends from high school had their majors already picked out, their four-year graduation plan in place and the next 50 years of their lives configured around their career choice. I was exactly the opposite. I knew that I was passionate about film, but also fascinated by mathematics. My teachers in high school had encouraged me to consider law school, while members of my family pushed me towards the arts. By the end of the summer I was still conflicted and still decidedly major-less.
I declared my film minor first, confident that my long-harbored interest in film would not fade. From there I chose to declare media studies as my major since it was the umbrella department of the film program. Quickly I realized media studies and film production were not very similar, and I retreated back to my undeclared major. Then, I read an article in Time magazine about a woman who worked as a secret agent in the State Department.
Inspired by the article, I declared international relations as my major, assuming it was the best preparation for secret-agent-ship. By November my secret agent phase had passed and the (figurative) ship containing my international relations major had sailed. Again, I was without a major. In the spring, I decided to take on a politics major as I considered the possibility of law school. The frigid health care debate in the House and the Senate last spring, however, left the foul taste of bureaucracy in my palate and turned me off from a career in politics. Just to review: that totals three major changes within my freshman year alone. Luckily, this summer I did some soul searching and, inspired by the countless Youtube videos I watch detailing the complexities of String Theory and my fascination with every episode of “NOVA” ever made, I declared physics as my major. In summary, I do finally feel confident in my major, but it took me three failed attempts to get here.
Fortunately for you, the reader, the point of this article is not to broadcast my lack of academic direction to the entire USF community. Instead, I want to highlight something that I think is common, but often overlooked by many college students: most of us don’t have any idea what we want to do. If you are a first-year student at USF and are completely positive about what you want to do, then good for you! But you are a minority.
Academic interests can change and, possibly more importantly, new interests can form. At a university where every department has small class sizes, top-notch professors and opportunities to become engaged and involved, there really is no excuse for limiting yourself. Dabble in subjects you have never been exposed to before or maybe have been too afraid to try. Let’s face it: you probably won’t get this opportunity again.
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