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Choose a Path, Not a Major
by Sean Morris (Student)

Unless you're one of the fortunate souls who's already found their calling in life before exiting high school, choosing a major before attending college is a slippery slope.  For many students, the years you will spend in college are a tumultuous time, and your interests will probably change dramatically from start to finish.  So why limit yourself to one particular field of study before it's even begun?  A common misconception is that you have to pick a major beforehand, or that you will be behind the curve if you don't.  That's a complete myth, however.

On the other end of the spectrum, when I first set anchor at Binghamton University, I had no major and no clue.  Foolishly, I decided to start sampling from the buffet of classes Binghamton offered, with no real direction whatsoever.  While this might be a good strategy for someone who needs to discover what they're passionate about, it is a gigantic waste of time and money for anyone with a vague idea of what they're interested in.  I fell into the latter category.

What I didn't realize was as I was diversifying my course load, I could have also been working towards filling my general education requirements, or GenEds for short.  Almost every school has them and they are for the most part self-explanatory.  In fact, in a lot of cases they are reminiscent of the required courses you had to take in high school; some popular examples include a foreign language, a lab science, and maybe a basic history course.  It does get a little more intricate than that, however.  You may have some requirements that give you a little more leeway and actually open up courses that pertain to a major you realistically may want to pursue.  Those should be the types of courses you focus on when scheduling your classes.  Look for classes that fulfill a general education requirement, and are also in a field of study you are interested in.  That way, whatever the discipline is, if it doesn't pique your interest you can move on unscathed.

The problem with engaging in a major before you're certain it's what you want to do is that the specific courses you take to fulfill that major may be worthless if you ultimately decide it's not for you.  Say before you enroll you have visions of becoming a business big wig with a room full of money.  Well, business would make a world of sense to major in, but also consider halfway through you start getting the feeling that business is a little too cutthroat for your sensibilities.  Now you've put yourself in a precarious position, because all those business courses you took probably won't count for anything in a different major.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen this happen.  Switching majors is an epidemic on campus, and without fail you're sure to meet at least a handful of students who've done it.  It's not a bad thing to change your mind about something, but you have to give yourself an escape route before plunging into a major you don't have complete conviction in.  Changing majors can be a potentially costly and time consuming endeavor, and nobody likes that.

The best course of action to take is to hone in on a few areas of study that intrigue you, and find courses that overlap with general education requirements.  Slowly, you will whittle away majors that don't appeal to you and find the major that suits you best, while continuing to rack up credits toward graduation.  Rather than picking a specific major, think of it as you starting with a wide scope of possibilities, and slowly narrowing that range until you've found your ideal major.  It seems so obvious, but a myriad of students dig themselves into a whole by prematurely declaring a major.  Be patient and efficient, and you'll inevitably discover where your true calling lies.

Former RA, tutor, and tour guide

Author:
Sean Morris (Student)

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