Keep an Open Mind, But Have an Idea

John Dong is a freshman at New York University pursuing majors in international relations and economics. He tutors ESL students at a middle school in Chinatown, and hopes to become a leader in the government working to further international stability.

When you join thousands of other college freshmen in unpacking your boxes in the fall and getting settled into your dorms, a blur of new faces will pass before your eyes. You will meet more people than you had ever imagined, and hear more names than you could ever remember. You will have hundreds of conversations, some quick, others deep, but one question will almost always crop up: “What’s your major?” After saying your intended major over and over again, you may realize that you are not all too sure that that is what you want to major in. After a semester, you may realize that you have no clue what you want to do with your life. That’s okay – sort of.

Freshman year is a time to explore. It is a chance to cast aside everything you have become familiar with and do something different. It is a chance to learn new things in a new environment and discover where it is your passions lie. It is an opportunity to truly branch out and do things you never thought you could be interested in. Freshman year is a time of flexibility – you can pick and choose classes from different fields, and not worry about formally declaring a major for at least another year.

At the same time, however, freshman year is a time to be moving forward. For every ounce of flexibility you have, there is a matching ounce of rigidity. You will have to make many decisions before you even set foot on campus. You may have to choose between applying to the business school or the arts school, which will have a big influence on your track for the next four years. If you decide to switch schools in later years, you will find that you are behind your peers, who have been in the program since their freshmen years. If you take too many classes that do not end up contributing to the requirements of your future major, you may find out that you will not graduate in time.

If you figure out what you want to do early on, freshman year will be a valuable time for you to distance yourself from your peers. You can pursue clubs and even internships in your desired field, and get yourself even closer to your goals. Of course, you do not have to do all of this. You can afford to keep your options open, but you cannot completely waste your whole year. Freshman year is but the start to your next journey in life, but it helps to have a clear start. There are many roads you can take in life, and college is not the only one. But if you have an end goal in mind, then a well thought out plan in college will surely make your road smoother.

So, before you apply and leave for college, spend some time with yourself and really think. Think about why you are going to college, and what it is you want to accomplish in life. With a better game plan, you’ll find that freshman year won’t be so chaotic.

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