Callie Ford is a recent graduate from Western Washington University with a major in English with an emphasis in Literature. Her work was nominated to be in the 2014 Spring Scholars Week fair at her school and she is now applying herself to teach English in South Korea.
For most graduating high school students, the idea of college is overwhelming and ever present. Between college fairs, trips to universities, scholarships, and the everyone’s innocent question of “What’s your plan now?,” it’s easy to forget the most important part of this process: yourself. College is a big step to take and it’s good to go into it having a plan, but there are so many different opportunities there that you would not even think of that it is impossible to have an initial plan set in stone. It’s good to have a plan, but almost every student that I talked to in college said that at some point they decided to change their field of study, so you have to let yourself have some room for error.
In my case, my initial plan for college was about as loose as you can get. My high school, like many others, offered the Running Start program, where I was able to take my last two years of high school at a community college to earn both high school and college credits. That meant that I only had two more years of college ahead of me before I had my Bachelors, and while it might sound like a long time, those two years flew by far too quickly for my liking. All I was thinking my senior year of high school was, “It will be nice to have my Associates done before I go to a real college,” when I probably should have been thinking further on the questions; “What do I want to study as a major? Is a minor something I should look into?” Needless to say, this was my first mistake as a college student, and I wasn’t even an official student yet.
What I had underestimated about college were the shear amount of different things you could do with not only your major/minor, but social opportunities and extracurricular activities that could only really be done in college. Because I had not carefully thought about my major ahead of time (which I highly recommend you do earlier rather than later), I decided that my best course of action was to stick with my guns and chose a major that I knew I was good at and enjoyed: English. This was a decision that I made within my first day of school when I sat down with the head of the department for the first time to just hear about the requirements for an English degree. I could have thought more on this decision, as there were other branches that were available in the English department such as a creative writing emphasis or a secondary education endorsement, but I knew that it would be difficult to make a decision any later and still walk away from college in only two more years. I ended up really enjoying my English literature degree and not liking creative writing classes, so if you just cannot for the life of you pinpoint what exactly you would like to do with your degree later, going with your gut feeling is really not a bad thing at all. Because I went with what I liked and found interesting, I enjoyed my college experience so much more than if I had second guessed myself.
If I had taken creative writing instead and found out later that I did not like it, then I would have gone and talked to the English department head again and asked what I could do and if any credits could still be transferred. While I might have had to stay in college for a bit longer, it would have been worth it to get a degree in a subject that I enjoyed working with and learning about. What I’m trying to get at here is that it never hurts to plan ahead, but it also works out if you calm down for a second and ask yourself what you would enjoy studying the most. The professors and directors at colleges are there to help you achieve what you hope to and are more than understanding if you go in and talk to them about your thoughts and situation. Even if it is not a degree that lands you the job of your dreams, having a Bachelors only gives you a better chance at a job later.
I feel it is also important to note, that in this quick college experience, you must also factor in everything that goes on outside of classes because they are just as vital. Welcoming events, info fairs, clubs, classes, studying, roommates, jobs: so much to take in and more in just the first few days, that I had no idea where to focus my attention on first. My freshman year was filled with simply trying to stay on top of classes, looking for jobs, and living with a roommate that I did not utilize all of the different opportunities I had around me to go out and discover what it was that I wanted to do. My second and final year at university I felt that I finally got the hang of throwing caution to the wind and taking chances rather than talking myself out of it, but by then, my self-imposed time limit was already up. In the end, I learned that while college is very much intellectually trying, it is also just as important to take a step back and just breathe, look, and remember that it is a time to make mistakes and have different experiences to learn more about yourself as an individual. College is the time to make mistakes, so while a good plan is essential to a successful college life, the mistakes that you will make during college are just as important. So really, make room for mistakes, take advantage of all of the different things that interest you in and out of class, and remember that while time seems to be dragging now, it will all be over before you know it.