Neuendorf: ‘What ifs’ in choosing a major

Zachary Neuendorf


t was senior year in high school, and all who were college-bound had to decide one important thing: what to do with the rest of their lives.

By this, I am referring to choosing a major. I am referring to the endless late nights Googling potential majors and laying all the options on the table, inspecting each one with an itchy, blind eye. These aimless escapades reek of anxiety, for the next 60 years stand on the students’ backs. What major will break bank? What major will lead to a career that doesn’t involve a lifetime of fake smiles? What major can my brain handle?

Jumping from Wikipedia page to Wikipedia page, a major-hunter tries to find out what exactly an anthropologist does and what can one do with a major in women’s studies. And soon enough (or more accurately, when time runs out) a future will be decided, and a path will begin to be paved. The further one walks along this path, the more those questions haunt every action. Uncontrollable outside forces — like the economy and parental opinions — drive into our conscience that the future we chose to walk is crumbling. We think that our future will welcome us with no jobs, no success and — probably the most frightening — a student loan debt that is not worth it.

Some are blessed with a vocational sixth sense that steers them with little or no second thoughts, and for that instinct, we with fickle minds are forever envious.

But for the majority, it is impossible to successfully complete this daunting task of choosing the right major the first time around. Countless students change majors in their first year, and indecision is high enough to necessitate an “open option” major. The mix-and-match game played with minors and majors is a result of this struggle. Finding the perfect balance between something financially stimulating and passionately fulfilling is tricky, and it becomes even more complicated when a balance is unforeseeable and a winner must be made between either head or heart.

This indecisive tendency is not healthy for a student who, thanks to the switching of majors, is more likely to spend an extra year or two in college, which results in an unexpectedly high tuition.

Yes, it is gratifying that we are able to play dress-up, to an extent, with all of these possible degrees, yet at the same time, it feels limiting. Maybe it is because all the possibilities are overwhelming, and there is a temptation to want to try out anything that might be a nice fit.

This can be exemplified when a chapter in sociology captures your attention and unlocks a sense of wonder that you have yet to discover in any of your journalism classes, which happens to be your established major. What doesn’t help are the occasional jabs that hint you might not be cut out for your degree. Does this constitute an opportunity to rethink everything and possibly change it all and set down a brand new road? A lot of other factors need to be considered before a reshaping takes place, but is there any time for reconsideration, or are the extra two years of education too high a price to pay?

I look at all of this with naive, scared, freshman eyes. I am unable to provide any sort of solution because I am not even sure this is a problem. It might be more of a process we are all required to go through. It is a decision in which I will live alongside for the rest of my life, but in particular these vital four years at Iowa State.

I suppose it is human nature to constantly ask “what if,” but it could become distracting and disrespectful to the current major if I am perpetually daydreaming about nine others.

Be sure that your search doesn’t stress you out too much; deciding on your major is important, but remember that in the end, time will tell what you really want to do.