Hi! My name is Connie Shim. Originally from Southern California, I graduated from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Industrial Design in the spring of 2013. I am currently working as Design Coordinator at David Monn, LLC, an event design and production company based in New York City. I am also a Freelance Designer, providing services in a variety of areas, including graphic design and photography.

Going into college is your first step into the adult world. It’s both scary and exciting. You can finally start making your own adult decisions, but your first ones are the most difficult to make, as they can be so important, even life-changing.

Let’s start from the very beginning, before the beginning.

1. Choosing the Right School – For You

You’re in your senior year of high school, and college admission letters have started coming out. The long, grinding years of preparation have finally shown results, both to your rejoice and disappointment. You now have options narrowed down to choose from.

This is where you make your first major decision. This school is out-of-state, but that school is good for this major, but this school offers these opportunities whereas that one doesn’t, and so on. So many pros and cons to weigh out! How do you decide?

In high school, my interests varied – academics, art, sports, music, and other extracurricular activities were all equally important to me. I decided to major in Illustration and started developing my portfolio early on, while still considering other paths. When the time came to decide what school to go to, I was even more confused. I had applied to art schools, universities, and private schools. I had narrowed it down to a university near home I’d always dreamed of attending and a prestigious design school on the other side of the country only the art and design community had an immense respect for. To my parents, friends, and outer self, the easy choice was to go to this dream school that offered everything I wanted, the same variety of interests I was used to. But, there was something inside that was pulling me towards this top design school so few had supported. An art school is not “normal,” and comes with so many stereotypes. What are you going to do with art in life? Don’t artists just paint, not study or work hard, and do drugs all day? How are you going to make a living? They said.

This was definitely one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I had weighed out my pros and cons so many times, it was making things worse. Finally, it came down to one question: what do I really want to do, for myself?

I realized my passion was really for art and design. No matter all the talk, no matter how hard I worked in other areas, I decided that if I want to really explore my interests and develop my skills, I needed to go to the school that will push me hard to do so. An art school is not “normal” – so what? I take it as a good thing. I had been holding on to what I understood and was used to all my life, and was afraid to let go.

But I’m glad I did! I’ve never regretted a MOMENT of it. All the talk and stereotypes had been proven wrong. RISD had opened my eyes to so much more and pushed me to do things I’d never imagined to do. I’ve met and created relationships with the smartest, most impressive, most hard working people who’ve influenced me in so many positive ways.

So, here’s my advice to you. Ignore what society says. Break the stereotypes. Take risks. Make sacrifices. Think about what you want. There is so much more to everything than you’d ever expect.

2. Choosing the Right Major – For You

Alright, so you’re in college now. You’ve made your decision and now you’re in this whole new world. So exciting! But now, whether you’ve come in undeclared or with a major, it’s time to really decide your major. You’re thinking, How do I know? I haven’t learned anything yet, how am I supposed to decide now?

Going into design school, I thought I had already made my big decision. I didn’t think there would be too many majors to choose from. Boy, was I wrong! There was so much to art and design than my naïve self thought.

Again, my interests varied; I was deciding among five different majors, all completely different. I had come in thinking I’d do Illustration, but actually being in college opened up my eyes to so much more. People around me have already decided, and some seem to already have their life plans figured out.

After thinking long and hard, I had finally decided to major in Industrial Design – yet another thing I hadn’t expected, coming into school. During freshman year, I was exposed to aspects and interests I wanted to explore more that led me to choose this completely different major. Industrial Design allowed me to continue using my skills as well as to develop new ones.

Choose something that will open doors for you but also something that will allow you to utilize and develop your existing skills and/or interests. It may work out, or that major may not be for you. If it works out, great! You will also be able to take a few classes in other departments. If it doesn’t, don’t worry – you will have the option to change majors. It is a hard decision, but it’s not the end of the world if you make the wrong one. It will be the start of a new one.

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