What to keep in mind when you’re choosing a major?


One of the things that constantly badgers a student’s mind before actually having opted for a major is how to choose the most appropriate one and how to balance interests, expectations and practicality. Sometimes that dilemma continues even after picking a major when we’re not entirely satisfied with our choice. Worry not, that confusion is part and parcel of growing up. It troubles us when choosing majors, when picking courses, when choosing careers, when finding partners etc. For some of us, the path is very clear. These people are clear about their passions and goals. They’re strong enough to meet every opposition and pave their path. They’re sincere to themselves and their passions, knowing that they won’t adjust anywhere else.

But there are also those who are forever confused and perhaps this is the majority. The way this world goes, we have too many choices. As T. S. Eliot says:
 “When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when everyone knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not.”
This majority needs to discover themselves, and to learn to think for themselves; not to be selfish but to look after oneself and others in appropriate proportions. At that stage, and at every stage truthfully, all of us have a lot of growing up to do. Decisions surround us and we find ourselves bewildered by the haphazard arrangement of things in life, especially when these decisions are supposed to affect our lives hugely. So here we’ll learn how to make this specific decision.

When I was at this stage of picking a major, I was one of those fortunate ones who know what they want, and even then I had the guidance of my family which helped me make the right choice. It’s all about weighing interests, benefits, passions and expectations. In fact, expectations may go to hell.

When you’re weighing your options for majors, think about the following:

  1. First and foremost, what is your passion?

Do you have a sciency mind? Or is it more artsy? Do you find joy in poetry and words, or do you find solace in pondering the depths of life? Would you like to service mankind in the medical fields, or would you like to be an advocate for mute animals? Perhaps you’d love to design and handle gadgets, maybe wood is more your thing, or maybe you’d like to explore fashion. You might be into social work; you might not be into any of these things. But there has to be something you are passionate for, even if you might need to discover it first. So explore. Explore and decide. Find it out at least, no matter how impossible following it might be.

  1. Look at the reality.

Look around at your circumstances and opportunities. You might not be in potion to go for your passion; you might not be allowed to, or you might not be able to afford it or you might just not find a right institution near you. All of these obstacles can be overcome. In time. Work your way through them. Be real. But don’t lose your passion. Improvise, but do not settle. And if there is no hope, turn to one of your other interests and make it your passion.

  1. Benefits and expectations.

As much as I dislike these two factors, they matter. If you’re passionate about something, you won’t necessarily be able to keep your house going on it. It might not be a financially right option. And sometimes, your family has high expectations of you which may not be in line with what you want. In the east especially we see this; professions become familial. Frankly, both of these factors suck. You cannot completely avoid them without hitting a degree of selfishness so you’ll have to find a way around them. Perhaps plan double majors, or give yourself time to get to your passion while pursuing a financially benefitting degree. As for expectations, you’ll need to politely get out of their tangle because when you do something only because it is expected of you, it kills you. Sometimes quite literally.

  1. What will your purpose be?

I face a lot of arguments for this one. Why should everything have a purpose? Well in this aspect, I think we should all give back to the world; do our part to make it a better place and somehow be of service. Have a purpose. Don’t work without direction. You’ll live a much better life this way.

  1. Don’t go against your beliefs and values

Many of us find fascination in fields that we don’t really accept as ours. Whatever the subject, however strong the pull, do not choose something which tickles your conscience. It will not make you happy. It will not satisfy you for a longer period. Whatever you choose, you need to make sure your conscience and belief system is okay with it.

That’s all I have for now but before we end this, one last thing. Mohammed Ali Jinnah once said, “Think a hundred times before you take a decision, but once that decision is taken, stand by it as one man.” So when you’ve set your mind on the right major, don’t let anything move you.

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