Overcoming Major Anxiety

Senior year comes before you know it. Suddenly everyone is turning 21 instead of 18, you feel old in your one last lower-division class full of lower-classmen and you find yourself facing the vague and foreboding “real world” before you’ve even wondered if that means you’re currently in a fake one.

Before this dramatic entry into the world outside of the imaginary, however, you have some important decisions to make in college too. What is the first question everyone asks you at every event, meeting and class?

“What’s your major?”

And for some of us, we don’t always have the answer right away.

I entered college as a drama major, but I knew that I would either double-major or switch majors altogether. A few weeks into freshman year I decided to simply take the drama classes I could without declaring the major, so I dropped drama and became undeclared. I took the lower-division University Studies that quarter, a class designed to teach undecided/undeclared students about the different options offered at UCI. The class included speakers and representatives from each department, as well as small assignments in discussion sections to further investigate what we were interested in.

Although I didn’t decide on my major right away, the class was very helpful in easing me into UCI and providing me with information and resources that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

As I entered winter quarter of my freshman year, I began to worry that I hadn’t picked a major yet. But I took the advice of my University Studies class and I tried out different subjects. I talked to people in the classes, peer advisors and counselors to find out about the few majors that I was interested in. But by the end of that quarter, I still hadn’t found anything and I began to really panic.

I went to see a counselor that specialized in helping undecided/undeclared students. She asked me a few questions about my interests. I mentioned that I was a feminist and a firm advocate of equality and women’s rights in particular. I didn’t really think anything of it, but she suggested that I take a Women’s Studies class, a major that I had only heard of in passing before. As soon as she said it, before I even signed up for the class, I had a feeling that this was the one. The next quarter I enrolled in Engendering Colonial Bodies with Priya Shah and I was sold.

Despite the skeptical looks I’ve gotten over the years when I say I’m a Women’s Studies major, and the immediate question of “what are you going to do with that?” I have absolutely no regrets about my major.

I feel like I am truly receiving an education about things that are important to me personally and that I think are important in general, from the most wonderful teachers this school has to offer.

Along the road I have also picked up a minor in sociology and in English, and I enjoy all of my classes and take them seriously.

Even though I’m happy now with my decisions, I remember all too clearly what if felt like to not know what I was going to decide. And of course, the questions of what you’re going to do after college in relation to your major are always present.

But I would encourage undeclared lowerclassmen not to fret, first of all, because that is not going to solve anything. And as far as post-graduation anxieties go, I have found that a variety of different organizations and internship opportunities are perfectly willing to take students from a variety of different majors, even if it doesn’t strictly pertain to the task.

Secondly, try different classes, because you’re never going to know unless you try.

Thirdly, ask for help. There are people that are here to help, even in unexpected places. I believe in studying what you like, what you find useful, and what you will give your best effort to.

I also believe choosing a major is not the most important decision of your life. So relax, explore, open your mind and don’t judge other people’s choices. And remember that as stressed out as you might be now and wishing for college to be over, remember that in four years  you’ll be wishing you could go back to the start.