How I chose my major: My mistakes, your lessons

multi-colored paints

by Rebecca Reyes


When I started college, I was completely undecided about my major. I knew I liked science and I had done some research and figured I might enjoy engineering. That isn’t one of those majors you can choose your second or third year in college without falling completely behind, so I started taking classes towards my major right away.

I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t 100% sure about my major. I kept taking class after class, hoping I would be more interested in the next one. I did well in my classes and formed a bond with the other engineering students, but it just didn’t feel right.

The summer after my first year I landed an internship at an engineering firm. There I was able to see what engineers actually do. I didn’t mind the work, but I was less excited about the work than I thought I would be.

In the fall of my second year, I attended a study abroad fair with some of my friends. I had taken a Portuguese class the year before and I desperately wanted to go abroad to Brazil. Unfortunately, my options were very limited because of the demanding requirements of an engineering major.

So then I had to decide: engineering or go abroad. Dropping the engineering major meant that I didn’t have a plan any more of what I was going to study or what I would do after graduation. The worst part was I only had one night to decide – in order to go abroad I would have to switch one of my classes and the deadline was the next day.

I was completely torn. This was a huge decision! At the last minute I decided to go with my gut feeling: drop the engineering major. I wasn’t enjoying it and I had stuck with it too long.

What to major in now? Since engineering was so demanding, I didn’t have much time to explore other classes. I sat down with the course catalog and circled every class I thought I would enjoy. I didn’t exclude any major – I wanted to be open to all the possibilities. After I was done, I checked to see which subjects had enough classes circled to add up to a major. This was the best exercise I could have done to help me find a new major!
Was I happy with my new major? Absolutely.

If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have started with engineering. Of course I say that now that I know I don’t like it.  My senior year I had time to explore different areas and I found a passion for two new subjects. I wish I had taken time to explore different classes in the beginning of my college career so I had time to major in those areas.

There were a few things that really helped me throughout this process. The first was my internship. Seeing what engineers did day to day made me rethink my decision. My friends also played a big role. They knew me and they could see I was unhappy with engineering. I also consulted with my professors along the way. And if I hadn’t taken that Portuguese class at the beginning, I don’t know what I would have done. I would have been miserable studying engineering with no idea of what I did enjoy.

So here’s my advice to you: listen to your friends, talk to your professors, explore different subjects, be open to other opportunities, and go with your gut feeling. Hey, it worked for me.


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