I just received the dreaded phone call from my sister who started her first year of college only a month ago. When I saw her call come in and hit “accept,” I could sense the unsureness and panic in her voice. She didn’t waste any time telling me what was bothering her. The statement “I think I want to change my major” was hurriedly followed by the reasons why she wasn’t being fulfilled in her classes and how she came to this conclusion.
For all of us who have been through college, these times of “finding ourselves” seem so far off in the distant past that we probably read this and shrug it off, thinking it’s not that big of a deal. After all, how many of us even have jobs or careers in what we studied in college? I know I don’t. But before I spewed out my advice, I tried to not only think about the thoughts that were most likely swirling through my sister’s brain, but also about what I went through as a college student, the mistakes I made, and how to have her avoid them.
Do I think where you go to school means everything? No. After all, I went to a small, rural school for two years and transferred to a large university almost quadruple the first one’s size. It wasn’t because of the dorm rooms with their own private bathrooms, or the fact that they had my favorite cereal (Cinnamon Toast Crunch if any of you are taking notes), or even that the people wore UGG boots and carried Herve Chapelier bags. It was hard to explain then, and it’s just as hard now. It just wasn’t… “it” for me. Little did I know, it was because the college didn’t fit over my hips! Say what?!
To me, college is like buying a wedding dress. You know, the second you begin to slip it on, you start to tear up and say to yourself, “This is it… this is the one.” When you step onto the college campus you belong at, you suddenly feel at home. You have no reservations, no worries, no stress. It’s a pretty incredible feeling. And once you’ve found the perfect college ambiance, all your problems seem to fall to the wayside, right?
WRONG! What about your course selection? What about your college loans? What about the community that surrounds the campus? Back to my wedding dress analogy, it’s not just about satin versus chiffon, or tulle versus lace. There are so many other things to think about above and beyond the beautiful budding tulips peppering each and every green space and the large greystone buildings that tower over you at every turn. But this is what college has been marketed as; this is what all-knowing 18-year-olds look for (can you sense my sarcasm?)
It’s sad to say, but in my mind, this economy and the price gauging colleges and universities get away with year after year has led people to treat choosing a college like a business decision. What education can I buy for the least amount of money and risk? I know, this doesn’t make the decision sound sexy or even fun, but it’s the truth! It shouldn’t be about where you want to go, but what you can afford. Why try on a $10,000 dress when you can only afford one for $3,000?
So many people believe that where you go to school has something to do with your success. I would say yes in only about 3 % of cases. Why? Because the Division I football team’s success or the new off-campus housing the school built have nothing to do with your capabilities and skills once you enter the job market. It’s the practical experience you gain via internships and part-time positions that differentiate you from the other 50 million college students graduating at the same time as you (okay, that may be an extreme exaggeration.)
And I digress… the second variable should be what you’d like to study. In my sister’s case, she knew what she was interested in (as many post-high schoolers do,) but she wasn’t exactly sure how to classify it. As shown in my intiial story, she’s realizing she missed the mark and needs to go back to the drawing board, but better now than three years down the road with unrecoverable time, money, and effort invested. But let’s be honest– there’s alot of wiggle room when it comes to majors in college. Look at me: I was a broadcast journalism major, and I’m in marketing. Relateable? Not really. But I’m doing it. If I would have gone to my advisor 3/4 of the way through my college education and shared my thoughts on switching gears, she would have talked me into changing my major and spending another three years in college to the tune of $45K per year. No thanks…
I give my sister alot of credit. Between going to a state school solely because of cost and following her heart, knowing quickly she had chosen the wrong path, I know she’s headed in the right direction. Although she’s not at her “dream school,” in her “dream city,” she’s making it work… in her real life.