In college, few decisions feel as pivotal as committing to a major. Now a junior, I’ve unofficially changed my major three times, internally transferred once and second-guessed my minor twice. I know I’m not alone in the uncertainty of choosing a major, but sometimes I feel embarrassed that I can’t confidently say which academic route I’m picking. We need to start recognizing how totally normal and reasonable it is to change our minds, no matter how late or how many times we do so.
GW is competitive. We hunt for internships and jobs – regardless of if we really want the commitment – and put ourselves on a pedestal when we secure a coveted position. For someone who doesn’t really know what I want, that’s intimidating. While my colleague is perfecting the details of their postgraduate 10-year plan, I’m scheduling meetings with my adviser to declare and un-declare a major. While my friend is lining up an internship, I’m trying to figure out where I would even want to test out a workplace. I alternate between wanting to pursue a so-called impractical passion and feeling pressured to prioritize financial security. And that issue is exacerbated by the pandemic, which has left the job market destroyed and millions unemployed. That sounds stressful, but it’s perfectly normal.
Many of us undergo a small identity crisis about our futures at least once a week. It’s understandable, since these are all valid concerns, but we should recognize that changing our minds is not a disorganized sign of weakness, but a positive venture that only brings us closer and closer to where we’re meant to be.
Each semester marks a new opportunity to redefine our aspirations. Career goals evolve, passions narrow and old interests become unappealing. Although coming to that revelation often feels stressful and usually incites another scroll through Degree Map, it actually feels relieving. Think of it as uncovering hidden parts of your academic and professional identity, which is exactly what our seemingly put-together peers are doing, too.
But despite how understandable these identity crises are, no one at GW seems to admit to experiencing them. The second we step foot on campus, people are already flaunting their internships on Capitol Hill, perfecting their LinkedIn profiles and unveiling their 2036 presidential campaigns. No one talks about the hundreds of internships we get rejected from before being accepted to one or the lineup of academic advising meetings we attend before even considering a major. Instead, we let the imaginary expectation that we should have our entire lives planned out by now. The walking embodiments of this expectation deter us from admitting that we’re still undecided about our futures.
The reality is that questioning ourselves is not as uncommon, irrational or as shameful as we may be inclined to think. Instead, it signifies how far we’ve come in our personal and intellectual journey. Nearly one-third of undergraduate students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs change their major within their first three years, and one in 10 switch twice. Even beyond college, 49 percent of people make dramatic career changes, like from medicine to accounting. Change is OK. Not knowing what you want to do is OK – even if everyone at GW thinks otherwise.
It makes perfect sense that the more we mature and grow in our academic and professional careers, the more prone we’ll be to altering our paths. Considering other possibilities is the only way to guarantee that we don’t dedicate four years of our lives to something that just doesn’t feel right.
Sarah Trebicka, a junior majoring in international affairs and Spanish, is an opinions writer.