Peer Adviser Post: Declaring a Major (part 2)
By Carlos Garcia CC'14 and Rachel Wangler CC '15
Flexibility, Flexibility, Flexibility
Carlos Garcia CC'14
Choosing your major can be a pretty daunting process. There are many factors to weigh: your talents, vision, preferences, family, future job opportunities etc. My own “major-discovery” journey has been quite unconventional.
I entered Columbia as a first year convinced that in at least ten years I would be at the Oscar’s ceremony. I came in fully decided to study film, my heart and mind set on Hollywood. I began taking a bunch of film classes and tried to fit in as much into the film community at Columbia. As time went by, however, I slowly began to realize that I did not quite fit within the “film world.” My mind was too calculative and my interests did not quite align with those of other film students. In my sophomore year I took a class in filmmaking. Much to my dismay I discovered what was quite a large lack of talent – my vision for my films never became a reality. It was at this point that I began to be open to the idea that film was not for me: my talents, desires, personality began to contrast more and more with my studies in film.
By that point I had already declared a major in Film, but if there is one thing I love about Columbia is flexibility. Through some subconscious prediction I had set my schedule so I could fulfill all my Core requirements as early as possible. This was crucial in giving the flexibility I needed to explore other majors. I began taking some economics and computer science classes and much to my surprise I realized how much I began to flourish within these academic areas. I immediately made an appointment with my advisor and created a full plan to fulfill a major in economics and a concentration in computer science. It was going to be a little tight, but definitely manageable.
I am currently in my spring semester of my senior year, about to successfully (fingers-crossed) finish my major and concentration. If someone were to ask me: “Carlos, what is the best piece of advice you can give to someone who is unsure of what they want to major in?” I would reply in a heartbeat, “flexibility.” My own major discovery would have been much harder had I not had time and space in my schedule to explore classes and leave room to finish a major. I am very glad that I focused on finishing the Core Curriculum as soon as possible so as to open wide the doors of possibility. It is so important to engineer one’s schedule with flexibility in mind, for one never knows when a new passion might be lurking just around the corner.
Rachel Wangler CC '15
Choosing a major can be incredibly difficult, especially when you think you want to change the major you’ve been set on since early high school. I came to Columbia thinking I would major in Mechanical Engineering and some mystery humanities major through the 3-2 plan. I went from wanting to be an Engineer to a Chemistry major, from Pre-Med to Economics because I wanted a “practical” major. It never occurred to me that I could major in what I had always liked—English. Somehow, it didn’t seem like a “career.” In high school I was good at science, so it seemed natural to go in that direction.
By first semester sophomore year I was still chasing a “practical” or “useful” major. I knew so many Econ majors and they seemed to like it enough, plus business interested me. I settled on Economics and English because I didn’t want to be totally miserable doing something I didn’t quite like. I took one American Literature class because I was interested in the professor. But like freshman year and Lit Hum, it was the only class I truly loved and engaged with.
The time came for me to declare and I was still uncertain. I didn’t like people asking me, “So, what are you going to do with an English degree?” I didn’t have the answer to that, I had only worked in the restaurant industry and an office, but I knew I hated both of those things and I didn’t want to hate my job for the rest of my life. I began to talk to other English majors about their internships and jobs, and the range was so varied I figured I would at least find something I would enjoy doing.
I decided that if I was going to study something for four years I would rather be passionate about it than suffer studying something I only thought could get me a job. For me, college is about finding yourself and your place in the world, in addition to the education that helps you do that. I dropped the Economics major and officially declared English. Once I began to immerse myself in what I was truly passionate about, it felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. All of the anxiety about jobs and internships and the rest of my life went away. I knew that if I did something I was passionate about that I would find a job to accompany it.