When I was a young girl, my dream was to grow up and be a kindergarten teacher. I could already picture my first day of school outfit — a navy blue dress with white polka dots and red high heels. My aspirations changed, as they often do as a child and teenager, and I imagined myself in such careers as a doctor, real estate agent, wedding planner, florist, sales person – I was always changing my mind. When you are young, as people like to define as the age before college, it is socially acceptable to not know what you want to do with your life. However, going into college always seems to result in a different viewpoint.
I am almost 100 percent confident that you have all heard adults stress the importance of freedom and finding yourself in college. “I changed my major five times,” “College is a time for exploration,” and, “I still did not know what I wanted to do when I graduated” are common phrases I have heard from my mother, aunts, grandparents, and mentors. Heck, my dad even said that he had no idea what he wanted to do after he graduated college, so, instead he took a 6-month trip traveling the coast of Australia after his commencement ceremony.
These ideas of self exploration and uncertainty all seem very nice and welcoming – except for the strict nature of college courses and strong emphasis on getting a job straight out of college stressed in today’s society. What happened to being able to travel, instead of applying for jobs and internships every summer to gain experience, all just to be able to get a great job straight out of college? What happened to taking random courses in college to figure out what you want to study? Nowadays, most majors require numerous pre-requisite courses to even be considered admission to the major. To be admitted into my major, I have to complete eight pre-requisite courses just to apply! Eight. Where does that leave room for fun classes? What if I wanted to change my major, or explore other options? I simply would not have enough time.
Some colleges even require you to know your major at the time the application is due – where is the freedom and exploration in this? Sure, there will always be the students who know for sure what they want to do, but that desire and mindset does not embody most college applicants. When I entered my freshman year, I thought I might want to become a psychologist. Then I considered medical school, then I considered sales and business and the list goes on. I constantly felt stressed and pressured to figure out what career I wanted to go into, the complete opposite of the exploratory and free-willed emotions that students should be able to feel when figuring out their futures.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned during my freshman year of college is it is never too late to change your path. Yes, course and major requirements can be tedious and numerous. Yes, there are other students who know exactly what they want to do. And yes, it may feel comfortable picking a career and just sticking with it. However, your future is so much more important, and you deserve to explore all options that may interest you. Who cares if you may have to take a few extra classes at community college to catch up? Your future self and career path are worth it. Just this past March, my roommate came back after break and told me about the Physician Assistant profession. I had recently talked myself out of the medical field, even though I had always been interested in medicine and health — I used to beg my dad to follow every ambulance. All of the prerequisite coursework and graduate admissions process scared me. I finally thought I felt comfortable now that I had decided to not pursue the pre-health track – yet this was completely unfair to my interests.
In the span of two semesters, I switched career goals from psychologist to businesswoman to counselor to physician assistant – and who knows? I may even change again next semester.