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2014-04-28 Steve Gardiner Major Confusion

So what will you major in? Seems like a simple question. We ask it to every college-bound student. Answering it is often an overwhelming challenge.

According to NBCNews.com, 80 % of students entering college do not know what their major will be and 50 % eventually change their majors once they have declared one. Similar numbers were reported by Purdue University's Center for Career Opportunities. The New York Times reports that “At the University of Michigan and Arizona State University, students choose from a dizzying 251 and 250 majors, respectively.” Selecting a major course of study is no easy task.


Those of us who traveled that route in the past remember that decision. Throughout high school, math was my best subject. I had an A in every math course, often near 100 % and sometimes over that mark with extra credit assignments thrown in. I also liked art classes, was fascinated by physics, and found English my least favorite subject.


When I filled out the college application, I quickly wrote “Math” in the line for major, feeling confident that my future was in numbers. That confidence slipped when my grade in first semester college math was a C-.


I entered the second semester taking a five-credit math class, meaning it met every day. On Day 4, I walked out of the classroom in a daze. Less than one week into a class that was my major, and I had no clue what was going on or what the professor was talking about. I walked down the steps, turned left, and went straight to the Admin Building and the Drop and Add office (obviously many years before websites made that walk unnecessary).


I replaced the math class with General Psychology, a good choice given my psychic state after one semester and one week of dismal results in my best subject area. Over the next couple of semesters, I wandered through several art classes and more psychology classes including Educational Psychology which prompted many new questions in my mind.


During the required general education courses, I took science, social science, and my dreaded English classes. During one of the latter, I met a professor who became a good friend. I signed up for more of his classes and by my junior year, shocked myself and anyone who knew me by declaring myself an English Education major. A psychology minor seemed to fit nicely since I loved the classes and found the ideas gave good insight into the characters in the literature I was reading for my new major.


I became one of the 50 % of students who change their majors. At the time, it was a very difficult decision, but in the end, it worked for me. I am now in year 36 of teaching high school English. How is it that my least favorite subject in high school became my lifelong vocation? I didn't see that one coming.

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