No, I Don’t Know My Major, And That’s OK.
When I first told my friend from Brandeis University that I was majoring in English, his quirked eyebrow and dubious eyes felt unwarranted. True, I had not even been on Yeshiva University’s campus for two weeks, nor had I completed even four classes of my single English Literature course, The Monstrous, but how could I not know my major?
Since that time, a short four months ago, I have unofficially changed my major multiple times, juggling the possibilities of Political Science, History, Philosophy or even a shaped major. I recall nights spent incessantly scrolling through the department descriptions on YU’s website in order to calm my anxious mind. It seemed like the only alternative to definitively deciding which area of study to pursue was to aimlessly wander through my semesters like an infant in a library.
I have come to the realization that entrusting my fledgling college self with the responsibility of declaring my major would be an egregious error. After all, according to a 2017 study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, about one-third of students in a bachelor’s degree program will change their major at least one time, so why must I act with haste? Nevertheless, the existence of that silly, pestering notion still troubles me. I believe I was not alone in adopting that self-induced strain; other students at YU have seemed to align themselves with that expectation.
Rubin Hall’s elevator has fostered countless small-talk conversations between myself and other students, and in nearly every interaction, I faced the question, “So, what are you majoring in?” In the times where I have expressed uncertainty or indecision, I was often met with sympathetic nods or concerned gazes, despite the other student acknowledging my status as a first-time-on-campus sophomore. I also recall discussions in the Furman Dining Hall where other students and I encountered that same question. During those times, curious expressions awaited my tongue to bang like a gavel with a conclusively declared major, but no such thing happened.
I am not claiming that that question per se is a faulty one, rather I am suggesting that acting as if we stand on the train tracks of our life while our rumbling future charges towards us is senselessly stressful and offers no palpable benefit. YU’s very own Career Center has debunked the fallacy that students must choose their major during their first semester in college. They explain that “Many students remain undecided their first year of college and ... [enroll] in different courses to see what they find compelling.” This is a route I personally find to be comforting and sustainable, and I imagine other students would, too.
While I acknowledge that spending a year in Yeshivat Orayta has fulfilled my would-be freshman year in college, I am not discouraged by that “loss” of a year. Meeting with Yeshiva College’s academic advisors has shown me that, while still fulfilling CORE requirements, I can develop a palette of diverse areas of study, sampled from courses in various departments.
Time stands on our side. While I admit that pre-med or other four-year major students may fall under tighter time constraints, I still contend that declaring a major should not be a recklessly hasty decision. Arriving at campus for the first time with a “sophomore” standing is daunting, and it often feels like the future is lurking in my dorm room, waiting to surprise me. Under that auspice, however, impulsivity would dominate my life. I have come to learn that the short-term satisfaction of declaring a major is not worth the trade-off of jeopardizing my college education and professional aspirations. As I venture into my second semester at YU, I still do not know my major, and that is OK.
Photo Caption: YU’s very own career center has debunked the fallacy that students must choose their major during their first semester in college.