Why Your College Major Doesn’t Really Matter

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The other day I was sitting on the bus listening to a 5-year-old kid tell his babysitter, “Do ya know what I want to be when I grow up? An astronaut!” Further impressed by his explanation of zero gravity, I started wondering how many kids actually grow up to become what they think they will.

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I, for instance, had many careers on my agenda as a child. Teacher, scientist, inventor, actress, author, superhero, and the list went on. I was passionate about pretty much everything, and my ideas about my future proved it.

Unfortunately, thanks to my multitude of passions, I ended up feeling very frazzled sophomore year when it was time to choose a major, sitting in my college advisor’s office and wanting to cry because I felt so stressed and angry that I had to choose this one thing that I thought would define the course of my life.

While I was sitting there, gripping the sides of the chair with my fingers, my advisor was nonchalantly twirling his pen around his hands like a baton, a quizzical expression on his face. He said to me, “Your major doesn’t really matter,” a statement that was so far against everything I believed that it really blew me out of the water.

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And what did I do? I didn’t listen.

Instead, I chose two majors, hoping that the broadness of “English and Economics” could cover the many career paths I was interested in pursuing. I spent the remainder of my three years in college taking required classes for two majors, many of them classes I wasn’t even interested in. With less time to take elective courses, I wound up piling extracurriculars into my already-packed schedule. What I really needed was Hermione’s time-turner.

The moral of the story here is to listen to most things your advisor tells you, and that your major doesn’t decide your future. You can be open-minded and give that decision some time, but don’t let it consume your life.

When you enter the “real world” post-college, potential employers are not going to look exclusively at your major. They care about the classes you took, the experiences you’ve had, what you’ve learned, and how you can apply it. They don’t care about how many times you’ve changed your major; they want to know who you are in the present and how you can add value to their organization now and in the future.

Figuring out your career path is very much like a scientific experiment. You pose a hypothesis (your major), you run tests, and oftentimes a random event or mistake results in your conclusion. Our college majors are the equivalent of that little kid on the bus stating that he wants to be an astronaut: It’s a starting point with an unforeseeable conclusion.

When I was figuring out my major I felt like I was about to be launched out of a circus cannon from the edge of a cliff without any landing gear. I wish I had listened to my advisor, chilled out, and just taken an art class.

Rachel Chou
Rachel Chou

Rachel is a freelance writer based in NYC. In college she had her own radio show and misses it very much. She also dabbles in improv comedy. You can follow her on Twitter @rachellchou