My youngest sister starts college at the University of Georgia in a few weeks. Although it’s not travel related, I wanted to offer some words of wisdom to college students on how to decide what field they want to enter.
Assuming you want to go to college, which you don’t have to, picking a major will be the most stressed-over decision you have to make in your four years. While some people are lucky enough to know what they want to do from a young age, most of us are not.
John Lennon once said, “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” So follow Lennon’s advice and do your best to get a degree in “happiness.”
- what you enjoy learning about: If you’re going to sit through four years of classes in this field, make sure it’s something you like learning about. So how do you figure out what you enjoy learning about? Join clubs and take lots of electives to see what works and doesn’t work for you.
- NOT what’s “practical”: Sure, that business degree may seem like a good idea at the time, but what if you decide to become a singer or writer or chef? Business degrees are a good idea in theory, but unless you have a specific job in mind, you won’t get the most out of them.
- study abroad programs for every degree: Studying abroad is a great opportunity and you can find one for nearly every major. It gives you the chance to see what your field is like in other countries and to make travel a priority.
- NOT what your parents want: Even if they are paying for your school, they’re not the ones who have to study for the exams or find the jobs in your field.
- take a variety of classes to gauge interest through your freshman year electives: Once you start your core classes, it will be more difficult to take the “fun” classes. So why not take a figure drawing, sailing or video production class while you can?
- NOT what will “make you money”: As the current economy has taught us all, no field is recession proof. What makes you money today may not even exist in four to ten years. Technology is constantly changing and so is the job market.
- something you will be interested in in ten years: When I was younger I wanted to be an artist and a ballerina and a harpist, but I didn’t choose any of those paths. Choose something you will be passionate about in the future.
- NOT as a joke: On an episode of Friends, Ross admits that he chose paleontology as a dare. As humorous as you may think it is to be the only male in the Women and Gender Studies department, the joke will be on you come graduation.
- one that has a variety of coursework: For example, in my degree of political science, there were dozens of fields within the major. Domestic politics, international politics, political theory, state politics, national politics, geography were just a few examples.
- NOT what your friends are doing: Chances are that you won’t stay friends with most of these people after college, so tagging along to their majors won’t get you anywhere in the “real world.”
- test out the field with internships, mentorships and jobs: As soon as I realized I wanted to be a writer, I started an internship at my local newspaper to make sure I enjoyed it. That way if I hated it, I could find something that suited me better before I made a major commitment.