Imagine that you are living in a world where all you friends and everyone around you seems to know what they want to do with their lives. Meanwhile, you’re just sitting there with no clue. I’m sure you’re not actually imagining this but are — rather — living this.
I am a second-semester freshman and, as I watch all the other once undecided freshmen declare majors, here I am, still feeling lost. I feel a bit hopeless and unsuccessful. It is very discouraging when all the adults in your life go on to tell you how their child is majoring in law, medicine or accounting at Harvard while tutoring kids at Yale in their free time (okay, maybe exaggerating some, but you get the point) and you feel like you are just sinking deeper and deeper into a pit of disappointment. Not to mention, there is always that tone of voice in the quiet "oh," with the concerned head nod that can only be equivalent to a Southern, "Oh bless your heart" remark when you tell some people that you just don't know what you want to do with your life.
Nonetheless, I am trying to keep an open mind and realize my potential here. In reality, there really are a lot of positives to being undeclared. You have more chances to explore classes, you are more likely to fall in love with something new and, through your exploration, you will be able to confidently make a decision that will make you happy for four years, as well as being exposed to a larger spectrum of potential friends rather than people just in your major-specific classes.
Through my searching, I have found five different things that I think are helpful to do when searching for your major. Here are a few tips that have helped me in my search the past semester.
1. Utilize School Resources
Many schools are now offering an "Exploratory Program" that allows students to be more than just undecided. I am an exploratory major at Butler University and I think my school has a unique program that has required me to have job shadows, career research and interviews, class shadows and faculty interviews, along with panels from every department of my school. Schools realize that it is hard to know what you may want to do with your life. I think it is valuable for those still questioning to start with a liberal arts program where they will be able to immerse themselves in varying subjects. Advisors are key to finding help on campus and helping you get into classes that help you explore your interests. Major fairs are also great at helping you get to know professors and department heads while giving them your little spill. You never know what they will be able to search and may tell you who to contact.
2. Think “Head, Heart, Hustle”
“Head, Heart, Hustle” is a quick and easy expression we used in my class based off of a book we read in class. Think of what you have a heart for. What are things you are really passionate about or would like to see a change in for the greater good? Now use your head a little to explore all the options and angles you can use to approach these interests. Once you have a general idea, hustle to get there. What are things that will benefit you in deciding if this is the right thing for you? Are there prerequisites or real life experiences that are needed first in order to help you get a better understanding? It may take a few cycles of going back and forth between head and hustle to get things figured out.
3. What Really Matters
Think of values and things that will be personally very important to you and may interfere with certain careers. How much profit and gains do you want to make? Is doing something for the environment important to you? Do you want a nine-to-five desk job, something fast paced and on your feet or a studio or lab type setting? How do you want your work and life to balance out in relation to what you plan your family to be like in the future? How can you advance in this career? This will simply require a lot of thinking in relation to family, location, effect and commitment.
4. Take Personality Tests
I personally thought this would in no way, shape or form, help me; however, they ended up beng very eye-opening. Tests like the Strong Interest Inventory will analyze your passions, values, characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, and formulate charts determining whether or not there is a recurring theme in anything from artistic and social, to investigative and enterprising. The test will also predict your top ten occupations based on career interest areas. It also analyses your personal work style preferences. There are hundreds of similar tests out there like VIA Institute and StrengthsQuest that can define you in ways that maybe you never noticed, always knew about (but never deemed as a trait) or just surprise you!
5. Think Outside of the Box
Of course my career thoughts changed at the end of my senior year of high school after I had committed to a school for a program entirely not related, but I loved the school anyways and still wanted to go. This was a bit hard for me because I knew that there were not any majors on campus directly related to what I wanted to do. I knew I was interested in human nutrition, but that maybe the science path was not entirely the best for me. I know nutrition is a lot more than just biology, and so I never wanted to be a straight biology major. I think communications still seem interesting at the same time, and so I could possibly do relations for a company or health center. Somewhat connected, I am also very considerate of the environment, and so my school's science, technology and society program could provide a more holistic approach to a better understanding of the food that we put into our bodies. I know standing out in the professional world is a big deal, and so why not explore your options and create something a little unique?
Don't forget that I am in your same shoes. I know it is tiresome to constantly be told that you have time and that everything will work out in the end. You may begin to think that things actually never will work out. Trust me — although I am still not declared, I am slowly coming to some conclusions and figuring things out. I just think it takes a little work, research and willingness to share your interests will every professor and student you meet to be able to utilize your options. Just take things a day at a time and stay open to all progresses and defeats.
Lead Image Credit: Global Studies via Flickr Commons