I came into the University of Connecticut having graduated from a STEM oriented high school, and held a strong conviction that I was to remain in that field until retirement. Granted, this isn’t unique to me, or to STEM for that matter, but one common trait that I found united many during my freshman year was this exact approach: That we were to act upon an interest and stick with it, no matter how strenuous.
For context, three years have passed since my freshman year, and I have changed my major five times since then. From neurobiology to allied health to economics to philosophy to human rights, I think I can confidently say I’ve completed the Tour de CLAS (College of Liberal Arts & Sciences). And yet, despite all of these changes, the prospect of pursuing another interest once I graduate still excites me.
Now, this doesn’t mean everyone goes through the same process as I did. I have friends who picked a major and never left, and others who require two hands to count the number of times they’ve declared into a new program. Regardless of where you fall onto this spectrum, it’s important to remember a few things.
For starters, your major is not an end-all be-all. One who graduates from the nursing program is not bound to forever working in the field of nursing, nor is the English major bound to forever writing. The wonderful thing about college is that students gain an array of skills – regardless of what program they inhabit – that are both interdisciplinary and transferable. The beauty of UConn’s General Education requirements is that every student is required to explore most topics at some point in their career. Yes, English majors must take math — I hate to break it to you all — and yes, computer science majors will have to write their fair share of papers.
Going off of that, Gen Eds offer a fascinating opportunity to explore different fields while still contributing to one’s graduation requirements. My advice: Take advantage of these courses while you’re still early into your time at UConn. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but your schedule will only get busier each year, making freshman year the perfect time to prioritize the virtue of intellectual exploration.
There definitely exists a stigma surrounding changing your major, one which was, in my experience, the byproduct of a multitude of misconceptions I had about college. It’s easy to feel attached to your major – one often makes friends through the courses they take, benefitting from common interests or collective suffering during exam season — and because of this, is struck with a feeling of loss or guilt when considering switching programs. Knowing this, it’s crucial to reflect on why you’re attending college in the first place. College is, above all, an investment that your future self will benefit from, whether it be financially or intellectually or socially. If you find yourself ashamed of the possibility of changing majors, ask yourself: Will my future self thank me? The answer is likely “yes.”
Lastly, and although it’s certainly difficult to envision shifting directions ‘this late into your academic career,’ we ought to remind ourselves just how early into our actual careers we are. As a freshman, you have a few more years ahead of you before graduation. Use this time wisely – while not adding too much pressure to your life – with the attitude that you have a good amount of time before anyone will look to you to make any final decisions on your academic career.
Take it from a graduating senior: I’d sacrifice a lot to do college over again, and I’d give up even more to be granted another chance with the knowledge that I have now. Make use of every exploratory opportunity presented to you, spend some time introspecting on what you want to get out of your undergraduate experience, and utilize these meaningful reflections to guide you as you traverse through UConn’s diverse array of academic programs.