I completely acknowledge that the cookie cutter response to my title would be: “take advantage of every moment!” And it’s true. You should do that. You should do that with everything. But, I think most college students are doing that—uniquely in their own ways. I come to you today with the advice I wish someone had drilled in my chaotic and scattered brain during the months of applications, AP testing, summer, first advising appointments ..YOU NAME IT.
I wish someone told me to go into college undecided.
I know a lot of people wish the same thing. **Queue the context**
I went into college dead-set on double majoring in Biology and Spanish, taking on incredibly challenging coursework that would ultimately render me a bilingual doctor living in Boston and flexing my white coat and rose gold stethoscope. I found so much pride telling all the people from my high school about my elaborate plan—lol do not get me started about ROTC. I glamorized that life. I thought it was the coolest and most noble bang for your buck—and it honestly could be!! But, when I began my course load, I realized something internally was not aligning.
I began to dissociate from school. On a microlevel, I’d simply go to sleep without completing my calculus homework, told myself I would settle for a B in my chem lab and felt out of place in every lecture. My heart was not in it. My wonder and awe for learning was slowly deteriorating, being filled by insecurity and disinterest. That, my friends, is not what learning is functioned to do. You should be obsessed with whatever you ARE learning. C’mon, you’re paying so much for it!
I knew at my core, I wanted to be in a career field that helped others. Naturally, with two Albanian parents, really pretty high school science grades and the desire to live a life of service, everyone and their mother (literally mine) points you towards the direction of becoming a physician. Which IS beautiful— I am not knocking a single doctor. I am knocking the forcing of becoming something that is not right in your heart. I am also knocking the obligated comfort you feel to enter a career field that will “give you a stable high paying job for the rest of your life.”
If you love it and you’re good at it, you will make money. Now, hush.
College is a time for exploration. Be very real with yourself. Unless you are firm on your passion—you love numbers, how the brain works, teaching elementary students— go for the route of exploration. Truthfully, what you want to do in your core is there, it just takes exploration to let it shine through. College has taught me that there are so many different fields that have a lot of identical functions at the core. They are set on the same principles— helping people, teaching others, inventing something— but look super different.
My sophomore year I had an actual identity crisis. I feel terrible for my roommate Ciara who stayed up late with me most nights as we considered every major offered at Penn State.
For a while, I fancied the idea of exploring the college of communications. I went to an advisor in each and every school BUT the communications school—so funny how that works. I was nervous about entering the “sorority girl” major and listening to disheartening statistics that I will have to work two jobs for the rest of my life. But, I took a journalism course behind everyones back… and I fell in love. It was all over from there. That was my academic home.
When it is right, it all connects around you. The opportunities are more attractive, the class climate is more welcoming and the work does not suck AS MUCH.
I remember the day when I finally got the courage to speak to an advisor. I remember how natural it felt, how exciting it was to explore career options that aligned with my interests and how ironically, everyone in my family thought it was a great fit. Most importantly, I remembered what it was to love learning, again.
To any freshman out there, keep your options open. Don’t pigeon hole and do not feel pressured. EXPLORE! Ugh, this is what the time is for. Find what you love, and love doing it. It looks different for all of us. Take that different class you feel oddly attracted to, go speak to that advisor and follow where the love is. Where there is love, there is happiness.