10 Dumb Mistakes Students Make When Choosing A Major

Sometime in the midst of my 8th year of life on this earth, my constant “polite” nudges and hints must have cracked something in my mother’s brain – for she finally bought me my very first copy of Pokémon Blue.

That morning, sitting on a lawn chair in my driveway and “keeping an eye on” my parents’ garage sale, I was presented with the momentous choice many of us have had to make:

Choosing your college major is like choosing your first Pokemon

This was 1999; the only computer in the house ran Windows 95 and was there mainly so my dad could play Descent, which scared the crap out of my brother and me. I had never been on the internet, and therefore, had no idea what my choice would bring me.

Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur?

I ended up picking Charmander because flames are cool, and promptly got my face stomped in when I faced Brock for the first time.

If you’re going to college soon, you’re now facing a similar choice – except that instead of choosing a violent-yet-cuddly monster stuffed into a sphere with a belt clip, you’re trying to choose your college major.

Last I checked, my alma mater offered over 100 majors. Imagine walking into Professor Oak’s office and seeing 2/3 of the game’s Pokémon on the table, waiting for you to choose.

“I choose… Magikarp,” Ash said, sunglasses smoothly falling onto his face from nowhere.

With so many options, choosing your major is hard. There are a ton of factors involved, and you’ve got a nice dollop of uncertainty heaped on top to make things even more fun.

I’ll go over a process for making your major choice easier in the near future; today, however, I want to focus on dumb mistakes college students make when trying to choose.

Learn to avoid these mistakes, and you’re much more likely to end up satisfied with where the major you choose takes you.

10 mistakes college students make when trying to choose a major

1. Choosing for Income

My friend Adam Carroll once said something that makes a lot of sense to me:

“College is a business decision.” | Tweet This

You go to college primarily so you can learn a useful skillset and obtain a degree – two things that will open up new career opportunities for you and increase your earning potential.

Since college costs a lot of money, it’s very useful to frame it as a business decision as Adam says; you’re essential trading your money, time, and ~4 years’ potential full-time work earnings in exchange for a better career opportunity in the future.

I think this is a very good mindset to take when you’re evaluating the potential cost of your education (going to a cheaper university vs. a more expensive one, for example) – however, I think it would be a pretty poor decision to use this mindset as your sole tool for deciding on a major.

Last time I checked, money doesn’t buy happiness. I believe – and research shows – that a lack of money can certainly make you unhappy, but past a certain point money won’t really make you happier.

The world isn’t just about money, so your choice of major shouldn’t be about it either. I urge you to consider majoring in something marketable (or making damn sure to make yourself marketable outside of class), but realize that your career will consume 40 hours of your time every week once you start working.

Don’t let those 40 hours be dedicated to something you’re doing solely for money. Find something you can be interested in as well.

2. Letting Authority Figures Influence You Too Much

Steven Colbert joins the Army

While doing research for this article, I asked my girlfriend Anna if she had any advice on choosing a major. She had some great things to say, but one story she told me really stood out:

“I told a student teacher in high school that I wanted to major in Graphic Design, and she said, ‘Oh, that program’s supposed to be really hard. I don’t know if you should bother trying.'”

That student teacher was right about one thing: the Graphic Design program at our school is challenging. But does that give her any right to discourage a student from pursuing it?

Anna – now a senior in Graphic Design and doing just fine, thank you – would tend to say no. So would I.

Authority figures see you as what you are: a greenhorn along a path fraught with potential mishaps and forks that lead off to less appealing (in their minds) outcomes. And so they will try to give you all sorts of advice as to what you should do. They’ll tell you to:

  • Major in something that’s “marketable”
  • Stay away from majors that are “soft”
  • Go with something less risky
  • “Do what your dad did, then come back and take over the family business!”
  • “Major in Accounting; your Uncle Bobby’s former roommate got a job in that, so it must be a good major.”

Now, of the limited things I know about life, here are two: You can learn from anyone, and experience is a good teacher. So I think it is a good idea to take what authority figures tell you into consideration.

And maybe that last line will keep angry mothers from complaining that their children are shirking their advice for that of some random internet blogger who dresses like Batman…

However, you are your own person. There’s a great line from The Well of Ascension, the second book in the 2,300-page Mistborn trilogy I just trucked through:

“A king should be strong,” Tindwyl said firmly. “He accepts counsel, but only when he asks for it. He makes clear that the final decision is his, not his counselors’.”

Your parents, teachers, counselors… they all chose their paths. Along the way, there were any number of opportunities they missed, technologies and programs that didn’t exist yet, effort they didn’t choose to put in.

If you want to do something, don’t let anyone’s counsel pull you away from it too quickly. Consider their words, do your research, and make your own decision.

One thing to consider, however (and thanks to my friend Michael for pointing this out):

“I would also caution people not to shy away from the advice on authority figures just to show individuality. In retrospect, it seems like people understood me and my interests a lot more than I gave them credit for.

3. Trying to “Find Your Passion”

“Find your passion” is terrible advice. Unfortunately, people will throw it at you from every direction.

We have a compulsion to rebel against the paths of previous generations – paths that focus on hard work and job stability – in search of “fulfilling careers” that are full of interesting duties, zero boredom, perfect work schedules, stimulating conversation… in short, 100% all-the-time fun.

The “follow your passion” crowd really likes to run with that old quote from Confucius:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Here’s the problem: You really can’t just “choose a job you love.” Why?

You don’t have enough experience!

Mark Cuban’s thoughts on this subject really resonate with me:

“Let me make this as clear as possible: 1) When you work hard at something you become good at it. 2) When you become good at something you enjoy doing it more. 3) When you enjoy doing something, there is a good chance you will become passionate about it.”

See the difference here? It’s about hard work first. You have to slog through the boring shit before you gain enough skill to even begin to realize whether or not a certain line of work could be your “passion”.

It isn’t something you can just choose right away. If you have an interest but don’t yet feel it’s your “passion”, stick with it anyway. Work hard, get better, and see how things turn out.

If you’ve got the time, I highly recommend reading So Good They Can’t Ignore Youwhich is on my list of essential books for students.

4. Failing to Do Your Due Diligence

Sherlock wants you to do your due diligence

When it comes to investing, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read is this:

“Know what you own, and know why you own it.” – Peter Lynch | Tweet This

What is your college education if not an investment?

You’re investing years of your time and a lot of money to go to college; you should at least have some inkling of what you’re getting yourself into when you choose your major. That means:

  • Researching potential career opportunities in that major
  • Making sure you know all the classes you’ll have to take
  • Talking to people who have gone before you and getting their experiences

I talked to another student during my freshman year who said he was majoring in math, because:

“It just seems really interesting to me.”

I asked him if he’d been really into math in high school. “Nope.” I asked him if he knew what he might like to do with that major. “Not really.”

This really isn’t the mindset you should have when making a huge investment.

I can head to the library and teach myself calculus for free. I can sit in a cafe for an entire afternoon slogging through a dense, 10,000-word article on Bayes’ Theorem (which I have done) without paying a cent.

My interests can be satiated without a huge monetary investment on my part. Information is cheap and plentiful. If you don’t know where to go to learn something for free or almost free, ask me and I’ll find you a resource.

When it comes to a huge investment of your money and time, make sure you know:

  • What you’re getting into and where it could potentially lead
  • How it relates to your goals

Maybe you can’t divine all the answers right now. You probably can’t. Still, there is immense value in simply asking the right questions now and trying to figure out the answers, rather than just jumping into something on a whim.

“Don’t let a whim put you in debt.” | Tweet This

5. Not Getting Experience ASAP

If there’s one thing that my actual program of study taught me, it is this:

“What you do in the classroom is usually a very poor indicator of what an actual career in your major will be like.” | Tweet This

It’s very difficult to gauge what you’ll actually do, day-to-day, from your experiences in the classroom. Academics simply aren’t like the real world.

When I did my internship after my sophomore year, I didn’t really enjoy it. Working for a big corporation, being in a cubicle, changing network settings on a laptop all day – it definitely wasn’t for me.

However, I’m very glad I did it – because I then had two years of college left with which to pivot (something Jenny Blake would be proud of).

While I didn’t change my major, I did make sure to work even harder to gain new experience in other areas. I also put more effort into this blog, which eventually became my career.

Had I not done the internship early on, I might have graduated without knowing that I wouldn’t enjoy my career path.

That’s why I think it’s imperative to get experience as soon as you can. Get a relevant part-time job, find an internship ASAP, or do a job shadow – however you do it, seek to get a taste of your major’s day-to-day work as early as possible.

6. Following Your Friends

Don't choose your major based on what your friends are doing

Here’s a terrible, gut-wrenching secret about you and your friends:

You are different. 

You have different interests, different levels of drive and motivation, and different relationship networks. As time goes on – and especially in the opportunity-rich environment of college – these differences will only become more pronounced.

This means that you will eventually drift away from some of your friends. Others you might stay connected with for a long, long time. Inevitably, though, you’re going to make new ones.

Regardless, your friends’ decision to major in something shouldn’t have any effect on you. Having friends to sit next to in class is nice, but you need to be your own person, deliberately evaluate your values and interests, and make your own decision based on them.

Allow yourself to pursue your own interests, even if it forces you outside of your comfort zone. Even if it means you’ll have to meet new people. Trust me – it will be worth it.

7. Focusing Too Much on Sunk Costs

A sunk cost is a cost that’s already been incurred in the past and cannot be recovered. In the words of Lady Macbeth:

“What’s done is done.”

Typically, we think of sunk costs in terms of dolla dolla bills, ya’ll – but you can apply this concept to any cost – time, effort, emotional expenditures, whatever.

Sunk costs often come into play 1-3 years after a student has chosen a major – and decides they now might want to switch. Now, a rational decision maker would take only one type of cost into consideration when making the choice to switch or not, and that is the prospective cost.

That is, they’d assess their decision solely on its own merits. Will switching my major get me closer to my goals? Will it make me happier? Do I have the resources to commit, or will the added burden be too much?

Unfortunately, human beings are not always rational decision makers. For one, we are irrationally loss-averse. This often causes use to fall victim to the sunk-cost fallacy: The decision to invest additional resources into a losing investment when there are better prospects available.

As Daniel Kahneman points out in Thinking, Fast and Slow:

“The sunk-cost fallacy keeps people for too long in poor jobs, unhappy marriages, and unpromising research projects.”

It’s hard for us to simply abandon progress we’ve already made, even when doing so would be advantageous. I know this personally, and Thinking, Fast and Slow is a perfect example: While the book is fascinating, I found it incredibly slow and difficult reading. Trying to read straight through was taking up too much time, keeping me from other books I could have digested more easily.

Unfortunately, it took me far too long to “give up” on the book and shelve it for another time.

Once I finally did, though, I immediately saw the benefit. I was able to finish books I had more interest in, while still coming back to Kahneman to research specific topics.

Giving up can be useful; as Cal Newport says in How to Win at College:

“Giving up is a tactical skill, not a weakness.” | Tweet This

College isn’t Galaxy Quest, and giving up doesn’t mean throwing in the towel, becoming a failure, and watching All in the Family reruns in your sweatpants for the rest of your life. It means turning your attention to a more promising opportunity.

If you find your past progress in your major – or indeed, experiences from high school – influencing your decision to choose/switch, remember to try and evaluate that past progress only for how it relates to your future.

8. Double Majoring Without a Good Reason

If you want to double major, have a good reason for it. Otherwise, use that time for other productive things.

Want to double major? That’s cool – but do it for the right reasons.

If you believe two majors will be complimentary, or will help you achieve a specific goal, then the extra effort involved in completing them can be worth it.

Too often, though, students heap on extra majors simply because they think it’ll be “more impressive” on a resume. These extra academic credentials have an opportunity cost, however; they take up more of your time.

Asian Efficiency, one of my favorite blogs on productivity, has a powerful reminder in the header on every page:

“You are given 24 drops of time every day.” | Tweet This

Taking on two majors means heaping on a significant amount of extra class time – and homework – onto your daily schedule.

Worse yet, this is time you could spend doing things that would be even more impressive to a potential employer:

  • Gaining work experience
  • Volunteering
  • Building your social skills
  • Making connections
  • Etc.

I love learning, and I still spend a significant part of every day doing it on my own even though I’m not longer in college. Still I recognize the importance of doing – and of identifying the activities that are likely to help me achieve my goals in the least amount of time.

Don’t make the mistake of heaping a ton of extra academic work on yourself without a good reason.

“College majors are not Xbox achievements or Pokemon. You do not have to collect them all.” | Tweet This

Instead, deliberately define your goals. Be mindful of your path, and do what will get you closer to achieving those goals.

9. Waiting Too Long to Choose

If you’re going to college as an “undecided” student, I urge you to seek out as much experience as you can gain right away.

As I said earlier, it’s difficult to gauge what an actual major will end up being like without gaining experience. If you’re at the point where you can’t even decide on a major, this is doubly true, as you’re basically only toe-ing the waters of any given major at this point.

Remember, college is an investment. 

For every semester you spend in college, you’re investing time and money. This isn’t to say that you should view college strictly in a business sense, doing nothing but work and having zero fun – however, you need to prioritize your search for a path you can commit to.

I think the whole “undecided” thing is often a symptom of too much “follow your passion” advice. Explore for a while, expose yourself to lots of different interests, but be aware that you’re unlikely to be hit by a bolt of lightning inspiration that reveals your passion to you right away. It’s going to take work.

The longer you hold off on choosing, the longer it’ll be before you can do that work – get past that initial slog – and start building up the interest and enjoyment that comes from skill.

10. Choosing Based on a Romanticized Image

Choose your major based on what you like to do, not on a romanticized image of someone you'd like to be

One of my best friends spent his first 5 semesters trying – unsuccessfully – to major in computer engineering. Now, if you see a person doing this major, what would you expect to see them doing in their free time? I’d guess:

  • Building their own computers
  • Tweaking the CPU and overclocking
  • Making their own websites
  • Programming for fun
  • Experimenting with lots of new software

…but this friend of mine wasn’t doing any of that. So, eventually, I asked him bluntly:

“Do you actually want to get your hands dirty and do computer engineering, or are you just wanting to be like all the cool hackers in movies like The Matrix?”

Hesitantly, he replied: *Sigh* “The second one…”

Don’t choose your major based solely on a romanticized image. 

You will not be Tank from The Matrix if you major in computer engineering. The world is not currently under attack from killer robots, and you don’t have a crazy ship or a crack team of gun-toting martial artists.

You will not be James Cameron – taking a submarine down into the Mariana Trench – if you major in Marine Biology. You’ll probably be studying seaweed.

You will not be House if you decide to become a pre-med. The first time you talk to your boss like an asshole, you’ll just get fired.

Look, it’s totally cool to get inspired by what you see in your favorite movies, books, and games. However, you need to realize the real world isn’t like what you see on TV. You aren’t going to be a movie character.

More importantly, life is not a snapshot. You only see Tank hacking on his computer console for probably 10 minutes total throughout all three Matrix movies. If you become a programmer, you’ll be doing it for 40 hours a week.

————-

Part of successfully reaching a destination – or achieving a goal – is having a clear path to follow. However, it’s just as important to avoid potential pitfalls along the way.

Hopefully this post has pointed out some of those potential pitfalls to you. Soon, I’ll go over some advice you can use to actually help decide on a major.

For now, let me know if you think I missed any mistakes students make when choosing.

Photos: Colbert, Sherlock, troopers, Halo (edited by me), Tank

Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Instagram

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37 Comments:
  1. Great article! #3 is some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.

  2. Figure out what employers are visiting campus, which majors they actively seek to hire and choose one of those majors. That should eliminate about 90% of the subjects offered at your college.

    • So ABSOLUTELY true.

      I am in my 40s. I went to college in the late 80’s and 90’s. All I can say is to look at college and know the tradeoff. You are likely to spend AT LEAST 80k on a 4-year education, and 80K is CHEAP.

      Many universities and educators take the backwards approach. “Have an inkling of what you are passionate about and major in that, then go find a job!” I would suggest looking at jobs and then learning about the path necessary to do that job. Nothing is worse than being over educated, under employed, AND OVERLY INDEBTED. The university has no obligation to find you a job upon obtaining your degree. They will happily take your money and tell you that your Gender Identity Dance Studies major is helping you follow your passions; fast forward 4 years and you are sitting with a tambourine and chanting with an Occupy Wall Street crowd.

      BE PRACTICAL AND RESEARCH. You have plenty of time to decide, but you must be practical and get in the driver’s seat about your future. It’s YOUR future. Furthermore, there are zillions of resources available to help you figure out what career will best fit your interests and talents! (How I WISH we had internet resources when I was in high school and college! I could’ve bypassed a lot of dead ends…). Also, I’m not sure why, but everyone by-passes trade-school now, assuming that they are far too good for this kind of work. I say, there are FAR FEWER people going down that path, which is less competition for you, if you have trade-school type skills.

      GOOD LUCK!

  3. Hey all, I see that a lot of you guys are scared and stuff, but I think that one thing we have to remember is that we should take things as they come, one step at a time, and not worry hardcore about the future. There is always a way to fix things IMO. I’m trying to get into med school, and I’m scared and stuff, but now that I think of it I think I need to make sure I still go with the flow. Just a thought for you guys.

  4. This article is a blessing. I had a feeling of what I wasted to major in, but had a fixed mindset. I didn’t believe I was smart enough. This article put everything in perspective.

  5. I’m in a fucked up situation.
    I joined a university right after my school. My subjects were economics and English I didn’t like what I was pursuing so I left, now I’m pursuing hospitality degree and I’ve realized and I don’t like this either. To be honest, I have no idea what to do and which degree to choose. My parents are gonna kill me if I leave again. What should I do!

    • Hey Sarah, you’ll be fine. I’m still in high school so my advice may not be sound but I think the best thing to do is to maybe defer for a year. You need some time to figure out what you want and the only way you’ll get that is if you give yourself time. Hope everything works out.

  6. Thanks for the article! I’m exactly in this situation. I spent my first year pursuing computer science and now I’m changing but I’m also super confused because I don’t know what to change to.

      • same here. honestly even i’m confused on what to choose. i love maths and used to like computing back at gcse didnt do it for a levels though.

  7. This has been the most helpful article I can find on majors!

  8. This was a great read for an uncertain, terrified student about to apply for a degree such as myself.

    I’ve always loved learning in general – I got A and B grades in everything from Art to Science, and now I’m hoping to study an Animation degree. I’m terrified that the practical learning and doubt of taking a ‘micky mouse’ degree (as some people view it) will be too much and I’ll drop out in first year, spending £9250 on nothing.
    At the same time, I want to experience what it would be like studying the degree, and to see if, with a little work, my passion for it will grow as you said in this post.

    My main focus right now is to just get the application in – if I don’t even do that I don’t have the opportunity to go whether I want to study that or not!.
    The low salary and competitive job market at the end of the road really puts me off, but at the same time I don’t think I would enjoy spending 40 hours working in Engish or Science, unless it was studying animals (which may be a back-up plan of mine).

  9. Your article is so good. Sadly… I’m still confuse for a few things. No, it’s about your article but myself. It just so hard to choose what major I’m going to learn in college meanwhile Indonesian system to get in the university requires a very good grades, my parents and I are fighting ’bout the major, and my school grading system. I don’t know but, maaan.. my life is a mess

    • Me too :/ I’m even more confused/scared than before. (but it was not the article’s fault!)

  10. I really loved this article, thank you so much. Many of the dumb mistakes here actually apply to me right now, especially the “going undecided is usually a symptom of ‘follow your passion’ advice” and that is so true! Now I just need that article that will help me decide a major……………………

  11. Your article is useful, crisp and absolutely fantastic! Moreover it’s an apt advice for every seventeen year old student who is in a dilemma to choose a major ! a very young age to decide from a plethora of choices, his confusion is understandable. Your insight into this topic is amazing.

    Thank you

  12. Thank you for this article. .I wish it had affected me a year ago.I’m facing a dilemma right now…
    I just finished my As levels and I took humanities subjects but in the country I’m in there’s a chance for me to study aeronautical engineering with amazing benefits(job, salary while studying ,airplane tickets) and at the beginning of this year I had seriously thought about studying economics and Political science but now I’m not sure…what should I do? pls help

  13. I’m going into senior year and I’m really worried about college. I don’t want to waste time just to be in something i don’t like. I’m very indecisive and have many likes and dislikes. I like creative writing, but I can’t see myself as an author. I love art, but it’s just a hobby. I had an interest in journalism and am taking a class in high school but now I regret it. Now my friend thinks I can be a good producer or editor. Someone said I should study communications I hope I figure it out, I know people switch majors a lot but I don’t want to do that.

    Anyways, great article, I agree with all of this

  14. Great work. I think that tuition fee, partying and time management are the main problems that college students face. Students should really work on those areas and try applying for loans.

  15. Its a great article! The find your passion part has been the hardest for me. I’m currently a Communications major and only because everyone told me that I would be good at it because I used to be so involved in Theater in high school. And I am, public speaking comes easily to me. But I don’t enjoy it. So I’m not sure that if I should stick with it. I tried taking like a variety of classes that I was interested in this semester. The only thing that I discovered with this experiment is that I actually hate psychology. I think I will take your advice on reading that book. Thank you for writing this! 🙂

  16. What really got to me was #3. Trying to find your passion. I was just sitting in my common room crying about how this Computer Engineering major I’d gotten into was just something I couldn’t do. After reading that quote on Cuben and what you said about it –how you have to work hard first before you even know anything about your field –I realized maybe you’re right.

    I can’t just sit here and say that I’ve gotten myself into a hellhole and that my parents encouraged me to get into it when I could actually try hard at it. A lot of the kids around me just seem to get it and I’m sitting here worrying about if I even like this major. How am I going to know if I like this major if I’m just gonna cry about it? I gotta get my shit together, but how? I think I have to follow your advice here: “You have to slog through the boring shit before you gain enough skill to even begin to realize whether or not a certain line of work could be your “passion”.” This is perhaps one of the most truthful, real pieces of shit I’ve heard. I usually don’t believe in those one-liner quotes that everyone looks up to. But this is just too good to avoid. I really need to just suck it up. You can do it –just suck it up. And do what needs to be done. Maybe I’ll learn to love it once I’m good at it. I will learn to love once I’m good at it.

    Yea, I know this is mostly just pep talking myself. I don’t really like discussing my problems with people because I just seem weakminded–I know, that’s pretty damn sad. Anyways, thanks for your perspective. It really gave me the mind boost I needed and has lifted me up both spiritually and emotionally.

    • Hey Torry,
      I had to reply to this even though you’ve written it months ago because your situation sounds exactly like mine – I’m after my first year in Optometry and I find myself getting anxious, worrying, and crying about why I got into it, if I should stay, how I did it mostly because everyone said it suited me and because my parents strongly encouraged me to pursue it. I still do not know if it is or isn’t for me. What I cannot bring myself to do is tell myself to suck it up like you have here, simply because I am the weak, indecisive type who would rather ball up in the corner and not face life. My objective is really to ask and see how you went about things, what you’ve decided and how you feel, just out of curiosity and due to a feeling of solidarity of some sort, you could say. Anyway, I would be glad to hear from you.

      • Hi Delter!

        Wow. I’m honestly surprised that you not only pulled through my rant which I thought no one would give two shits about, but also that you completely related to it! It makes me feel really good that there are others that –let’s be honest –don’t have their shit together.

        I wanna tell you that life is so much better now because I changed my mentality and you can do it too and hallelujah! But… no. Honestly I’ve gotten myself deeper into this hellhole. I’m still in the same predicament and have done a whopping nothing to improve my life. I kind of don’t know where to start…. Because I never really knew what I wanted to do, it made it easier for my parents to say “Hey! Do this. You’ll make lots of money. Therefore, you’ll be happy.” But, I don’t really like computer engineering – the atmosphere, the mission to further drive humanity out of nature and camaraderie, the fake amiability to mask the competitiveness. I’ve told my parents that, but they’ll say “This has the most opportunity. You haven’t put your full effort in. How would you know if you haven’t fully tried. You’ll learn to love it.” But… I haven’t. Send me to prison, but I kind of don’t really care if I make a lot of money. (You know what the next line is) I just want to be happy. I sound so effing determined in my post in February, and I wish I’d done something about it. I get these little sparks of fire after a long period of misery and tears, but that flare dies out quickly.

        Honestly, being so stuck and indecisive has really taken a toll on my ability to form good relationships –like basic friendships, not even romantic relationships. Which has just further made me more sad and alone. Because I’m not being honest with myself and who I am and what I want and who I want to be, how can I be honest and myself with someone else? Does that even make sense? Geez, I need to see a therapist, but that means I’m facing the problem which solidifies that there is a problem. Like you said, solidarity sucks.

        Anyways, for the current quarter, I’m only taking some general ed req courses and math courses (which I like) but not any of the computer engineering major requirements, so that has really eased my psyche. But that’s just me avoiding the shit I need to take in the future. I kind of don’t know how to pull through. So, does a quote really help? I don’t know.

        I don’t wanna bring you down in whatever predicament you’re in, because I gotta tell ya – my strength levels are really low. I’ve been feeling “weak and indecisive” for the past year and a half and like a complete waste of space sometimes, but I think it’s ok to feel like that at some point in your life. You started a conversation by feeling related enough to reply to my comment, so that’s a step, right? Maybe we can help each other out. I apologize for not being a morale booster, but I really would love to keep this conversation going. If you’d like, email me at [email protected]. Or if that’s creepy, we can keep this convo on this page.

      • Torry, you gotta get out of that major. Computer Engineering is not for you, and I can really tell, man. It might be too late, or it might not, but you don’t want to spend the rest of your life at a job that you don’t like. I really can’t stand the mentality that you can force yourself to “like” a major. I don’t think it works like that at all. Right now I’m still in high school, but I’ve been writing a book to try and help students who feel lost. I am fairly lost myself, but I do have a plan for College (going to major in Computer Engineering, just like you did lol), and I’ve been slogging through my book, searching for any solid answer I can find for the question “How do a choose a good major for me?”.

        It is really interesting to hear the stories of students like you, Torry, and I feel like they’re more truthful/useful than any article I have read. I think in order to make my book completely accurate, I’m going to have to get some professional help with it.

      • Hey Camden,

        It’s really awesome to hear that you’re writing a book on this stuff. And it’s truly an honor that you feel what I’ve said is “more truthful/useful”, because I never though I could cause someone to think that about my writing. It’s just… wow thanks.

        By now, I’m assuming you know where you’re going and I sincerely hope you have a good connection with your future dwelling and its inhabitants. Because, as far as I’ve noticed, that really does matter. The uni I attend has a pretty dull, industrial campus with this “modern” workplace architecture that bores me to tears and inspires nothing in me. The people are driven and hard-working, committed to their tasks and their goals, blah blah. I’d like to say that I’m one of them. But, I don’t know what I am, if I’m honest.

        Recently, I’ve become so self-conscious about everything. Overthinking every minor detail about every interaction and analyzing the lack of authenticity in surrounding social situations. Simultaneously feeling so alone and useless. I feel like an empty vessel. Having the appearance of a body taking up volume, but utterly useless in participating in the circle of life. Surely someone more worthy could be taking up my bed and my space and actually be doing something worthwhile. I don’t know what I’m doing. And I don’t know what to do about it.

        Geez, I always end up ranting. Anyways, it’s cool to here that you’re writing a book, man. Keep doing what you’re doing and I hope you like Computer Engineering. As of now, I’m still sticking to it purely of avoiding the dread of the potential regret if I do back out. I actually told my parents I was interested in switching to a joint major: Mathematics-Computer Science, which avoids all that circuit shit I abhor, and is less stressful than CE. But man oh man, the reaction I received was if I was switching to an Egyptian History major with an auctioneering minor. I’ve decided to simmer that steam for the time being and bring that conversation up again later, since the lower div classes between CE and Math-CS are pretty much the same, so I’m lucking out. At times like these, my thought process ends up here: Iceland sounds like a nice place to run away to. I love eternal winter. And bears.

        So, my friend, just out of curiosity, whether or not it is tentative, what made you pick CE?

    • Hey Torry,
      Like you I’ve been stuck with this mindset since my 4th semester in my current major. Choosing a major was such a difficult choice that I never thought about while in high school so I just chose what my parents recommended. And how I’ve regretted that decision since. I should have gotten a job in the field sooner because when you dread going into work everyday, I don’t think I can spend 40 years of my life doing it. I’ve contemplated switching majors many times, and now time has finally caught up and I need to make a decision soon (currently in my 7th semester) so I’ll be graduating late if I do happen to switch to another major. I’ve been trying to seek out which majors I can transfer to so I can just graduate and get out there looking for jobs. Have you thought about what kind of work environment makes you happy? I know that I prefer to work in an office-type setting and don’t mind mundane repetitive work. If it helps, try talking to an adviser at school or even the dean (if they allow you to).
      Best of luck and I hope you find the career that makes you happy.

  17. I’ve taken on most of these mindsets in my 3 semester of community college.

    But I’m still unsure about what to do and am not confident about what I’m doing..
    I’m majoring in comp sci right now for the most part I’m not sure anymore. I did a little coding in my previous job, and it was a random task my boss gave me. He thought I was smart, so i researched how to do codes and got a taste of it. I didn’t hate it, and I kind of liked the idea of just being told what to do and code for the rest of the time. That was a part time job though and I was a teen that just wanted to get some moola and be left alone while doing it .

    At the end of the day, I should become a counselor or some kind of advocate. I enjoy planning and I’m usually the person people come to for advice or can talk to for hours in first encounters. The thing with this is that I know that I’m smart, and I know I’m a hard worker. I want to prove that to myself, challenge myself, and have a very vibrant professional career. I know in this case, it’s not like I’m choosing the easier route, and becoming a counselor of sorts is just who I am…but I know myself. I get envious and bitter. I don’t want to become those teachers or counselors who hate their students because they didn’t do enough with their life.

    So..I chose computer science. It’s a practical BA, but how practical for me… that’s what I’m not too sure about. I’m more creatively inclined. I enjoy writing (writing a book right now), painting, and playing instruments. It’s not things I feel I need to pursue further though because I taught myself those things, and I’m satisfied with the expertise I’ve acquired on my own. In every sense I’m a soft skill person: making videos about things that make me happy, watching artistic videos or even positive and meaningful ad campaigns, animations/short films, giving people advice, connecting through sharing life experiences, doing my podcast, blogging…etc.

    But…I’m currently majoring in comp sci, which doesn’t make much sense when you think about who I am. To cater an education that I hope…makes more sense to me…I’m thinking of minoring in graphic design or marketing, then getting an MBA in marketing. Somewhere down the road I’d want to get certified to be a teacher or a counselor after I’ve felt I had my time in the professional world; I want to be successful, but I’d also like to a live a life that will simmer down to low stress and helping people one on one.

    I feel this is just the best I can plan for myself as of now…I’m still growing into my own person and I’ve changed a lot just in the last year from being an incredibly emotional person to someone who is more straight forward and objective.

    Would really love a response.

    Enjoy your videos and your blog. They’ve helped me a lot so far in my college career.

    • Holy moly. Did not know this comment would be so long. Sorry, but thanks so much for your time if you actually get to reading it.

  18. Currently I am a freshman going for a Criminal Justice major and a Psychology minor. Lately I’ve been thinking that it wouldn’t hurt to try and double major with that since I have already begun to gather outside experience (through community involvement assignments through both intro classes)and because they are two subjects that I enjoy very much. Not to mention that in certain jobs the two subjects relate very well. I was also thinking that later on, in the future I would pursue a Masters in Criminology. I know that the extra classes would be pricey but I feel like if I chose to double major and get a Masters it would provide many different job options for me. What do you think?

  19. Hey,
    I just read this page, and it totally resonates with me. Since I first learnt about it, I’ve been interested in biochemistry/chemistry/genetics- and a lot of areas in medical research. I’ll be applying to college this year. Thing is, to do biomedical research- there are essentially 2 ways- PhD in bio or an MD, then research. If I’d had it my own way, I would’ve majored in bio (with psychology as minor) then gone on to do my PhD etc etc. There are 2 problems. My parents think that I will be in a much better position with an MD, because then I’ll have another option if research doesn’t work out. I love the science of medicine, and I generally like helping people, but don’t find the aspect of ‘seeing patients’ quite so appealing. It just seems mundane to me. In fact, I’m ambivalent- I would certainly like it, but not enough to do it for my whole life. However, there ARE specialties in medicine, which require no patient contact. Secondly, for my premed degree, my parents prefer I take Biological engg/biomedical engg instead of bio/chem. Then even if I don’t pursue medicine, I could pursue those fields- while those fields are not bad, they kind of stray from what I really want to do. There is not much else I’m interested in atm (at least, nothing radically diff from these fields like finance, for instance). Unfortunately, I have done a lot of research on this topic on the internet- and almost all agree with my parents-if you’re interested in biomedical research-better to study medicine, since bio is not at all marketable. I’m now seriously unsure- If I can’t do biomedical research though, medicine would def be my second option- I would like it better than any other career (except as a researcher). (Btw- I do not live in the US, I might/might not go there to study- this is prob why my dilemma seems a little premature- finances/time are not the criteria for my choice right now- if I do a PhD in bio, it will take the same amt of time, maybe more) Sorry for the extremely rambling post. I just don’t want to end up in a career where I don’t enjoy going to work everyday. Your help would be truly appreciated.
    A Very Confused Student

  20. Okay i love movies so much. Ever since i was a freshman in high school, movies and film production always fascinated me. Throughout the years that dream was kept locked inside my heart because i discovered a talent in music. Well, the music thing isn’t working out for me, and i honestly still long for a career in TV/ Film, i love everything about movies. i have no problem thinking realistically and going for a teaching job, but as far as career options, i would like to experiment in college and see what field i have the most passion and talent with. There is a lot of different jobs that go into a certain film, such as Directing, Producing, Acting, Screenwriting, Talent Agents, Costume Design and etc. I just need some realistic advice to help me decide whether it is worth my time to pursue a degree in the Arts and majoring in Theater/ TV/ Film.

  21. This is what’s wrong with the U.S. educational system. There are too many people going into college with no idea what they’re doing (and although this was also true in the past, enrollments have increased significantly). What irritates me is when newly graduated twenty-somethings complain about not getting the job they want, when all they did was pick a random major they think they’d be good at (something interesting, or something society has dictated to them) and leave without valuable work experience that could have told them what they liked to do and what they didn’t like.
    Like you said, college is an investment. Yes, we want to be scholars, but at the same time we need to be realistic because we can’t survive on textbook knowledge alone. I was an artsy student growing up: I won drawing and writing contests. I would have liked to study English or Art. But I can do that for free, on my own time, while I pursue a more marketable degree that I’ve explored through shadowing and work experience, put significant amount of effort to, and ended up liking.
    This is not to say that people shouldn’t study the humanities. It depends on your ambition, talent, and work ethic. If, unlike me, you are able to gain sufficient money from your art or writing, then kudos to you. But for many people, this is not the case. Just as we can’t all be engineers and businessmen, we can’t all be artists either.
    The smartest thing to do, if you are going into less marketable areas, is to work while in college. As close to your field of liking as possible. Don’t expect to graduate with a piece of paper that says “I went to class and wasn’t very exceptional or hardworking at anything at all” and land a cushy job related to whatever degree you chose.
    There are no good jobs for people who settle for less in the things they do.

    • Well said! No matter what, I think people need to get as much practical work experience in college as they can. I think an artsy or “soft” major can actually work well, providing it’s paired with practical, marketable out-of-class experience.

  22. Numbers 4 and 8 are gold, and complement each other, I think. My first semester I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to major in Music or English. I considered doing a double major (which is possible on paper), but I realized (in part because of your advice on the importance of what you do outside of class) that this was crazy. I would have had no social life, very little sleep, and no time to work on my side projects.

    The decision was a hard one, but I finally decided on English. I realized that, as you say in tip 4, I can learn about music whenever I want, and I’m still taking saxophone lessons as well as being involved in a few music ensembles

    One additional caution I would add about “Following Your Passion” or doing what you love is that in some cases studying something full-time can suck all the joy out of it. I found this the case with music my first two semesters. I was taking Music Theory, Class Piano, lessons for credit, and was in five music ensembles. It ceased to be enjoyable and felt too much like work. Of course, some amount of this problem will arise with any major (there were definitely nights when I didn’t feel like reading The Canterbury Tales), but it can be particularly so for interests that might otherwise serve as a “creative outlet.” I’ve cut back to three music ensembles this semester, gotten a part-time job, and am planning to enjoy music again without it taking over my life.

    Thanks for this great post. I’ll share it with some of my friends who are about to start their first semester of college.

    • I’m glad you figured that out before you overworked yourself! I’ve found that it’s really easy to make plans, but it’s much harder to actually execute. I’ll often wake up in the morning and get really excited about completing a ton of tasks – but by the time I go to bed, I’ve only gotten two or three done (which is realistic).

      You’re actually the second person to bring up the bit about work potentially ruining your passion for something, and I think you (and the person who commented on Facebook) have a good point. Trying to turn your passion into a job means that it’s going to become real, hard work – and that can sap the fun out of it.

      I think that certain pursuits are more susceptible to this problem than others, but it’s definitely something to consider. At the very least, I think people going this route should have other interests that they can dive into on the side in order to give their minds a rest.

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