Sara is a 2013 graduate of the University of Michigan where she studied English and Community Action & Social Change. She now lives in Austin, Texas where she works in education.
At freshman orientation, we were corralled into the advising center and given fifteen minutes to meet with our assigned advisors. I stood outside the door of my advisor’s office and listened as he finished mapping out the college career of an anticipated triple major. When I finally got into the chair in his office, he stared at me with a blank expression and said, “So, what do you want to do?” as if every eighteen year old should have the next twenty years planned out with annual goals.
Being undecided, his advice for me was to take classes in a variety of subjects so that I could find out what I was truly interested in. The thing about that advice (and I had heard it a couple of times before when other adults had inquired about my area of study) is that it discounts the first twelve years of education and experiences that I had while in school. Although I was not positive what my major would be as I sat in that chair on one of the few warm days I ever experienced in the state of Michigan, I knew there were areas of study that peaked my interest more than others.
Before freshman year (albeit even before freshman orientation), sit down and make note of every class that has interested you and any experiences you have had that you were really passionate about (which could turn into an area of study). Once you have that list, explore the course catalogue of your college and find courses offered this semester that align with that interest. Bring that list into your advisor on the first day and ask them what kind of classes or majors they know of that might interest you.
Take classes that interest you, not classes that might interest you. If the sciences never peaked your interest in high school, I hate the break it you that you will probably never be a nuclear physicist. Don’t bother with that nuclear physics freshman seminar. Take classes that you have asked yourself questions about before, that you loved reading about when you covered that subject in high school.
As a college freshman, four years sounds like a long time and, in many ways, it is. But, four years is still a finite amount. A finite amount of time in a place teaming with people passionate about more areas of study than you probably even knew existed when you got in. Take advantage of every second of that and pursue both courses and activities that feed your interest right out of the gate.
As a college freshman I took classes in nutrition, English, biology, sociology, political science, and psychology. As I had in high school, I toiled through science courses in the same way I had in high school because I had been given faulty advice that insinuated I (disregarding my past experiences and studies) might suddenly develop a deep interest in things I had never previously been interested in.
Use college to explore your interests as many as you may have.