The greater part of our childhoods and academic careers lead up to us declaring a major, a daunting task. We face the dilemma of following our passions or studying something more “promising.” We question if we’ve yet to discover our true passions as young adults. Some of us change our majors several times in an effort to find the best match and still aren’t certain.
Unless you are embarking on a very technical path, such as engineering, or you plan on attending grad school, in which eligibility hinges on specific prerequisites, the pressure we put on ourselves to find the perfect major is more trouble than it’s worth. A considerable number of people end up in career fields they had no intention of pursuing, let alone studying in school, indicating that experience is just as important as and even sometimes overrides academic background.
I am extremely guilty of feeling weighed down by this decision, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that this choice is not necessarily monumental.
There’s a reason that extracurriculars and work experience are so highly encouraged for students: These experiences can have as much transferability to the workforce as curriculum. Once you’re out of school and advancing in your career, employers evaluate your qualifications for a position based on skills and experience. After all, how often are middle-aged job applicants asked about college courses and their GPA, or most anyone beyond their first post-grad job for that matter?
The list of extracurriculars that give individuals a professional edge has grown greatly. Certifications, leadership roles, internships and co-ops, and opportunities to assist in research are just a few of the options in which experience can be gained. Material that is taught in college courses can always be learned, particularly with all the resources available in today’s world. As humans and employees, we are lifetime learners regardless, whereas experience cannot be taught.
Although having a degree has become much more of an expectation than it used to be, this doesn’t mean that the discipline you study will make or break your success. Psychology is one of the most popular majors, yet a fraction of those with degrees in psychology go on to be psychiatrists. Similarly, communication, another very popular major, certainly doesn’t limit you to working in a related field such as public relations or media. Just take my mom, for example: She went through travel school and ended up as a paralegal.
Many majors are deemed “impractical” and “useless,” but does it really matter that much when the experience we gain is what really counts once we land that first job? Besides, those communication majors will know how to market themselves in an interview for a finance position and lead meetings. That history major may have an edge as a news analyst. Even if it feels like your major doesn’t distinguish you in ways like these, or if you feel unsure about the path you are on, that’s okay. The skills and experience that you gain outside of the classroom and will continue to acquire in the workforce are outside of the bounds of a bachelor’s degree.