The Merits (and Perils) of Choosing The Wrong Major at College


What do you want to be when you grow up?

This is the million-dollar question that was so often asked of me when I was growing up, as with everybody else. Teachers at school instilled in me this sense of purpose by doing this, that I need to know where I was heading even as a kid. I remember distinctly having three dream jobs to choose from because I couldn’t make up my mind: a teacher – obviously; a doctor – the bunch of them always look so cool with their stethoscope and white coat; and a singer – the result from watching too many music videos of Britney and Westlife. Those are realistic, good dream jobs,mind you. They are neither so far-fetched nor so hard to be realized. Then I grew up. Life got in the way and brought along all of these messy surprises. I made some bad decisions;they took my life progress a couple steps back. I made some good ones; they advanced me up the ladder. It was like playing a never-ending hopscotch game with time as the ultimate sacrifice.

I ended up as an Accounting major after going through excruciating debate episodes with my parents. It’s not really a debate, as it would imply two parties having an exchange of ideas – although in heated atmosphere- and coming up with an answer to the problem at hand. I was allowed to opine, but my ideas weren’t counted. I raged for days, but they wouldn’t budge. As a Chinese family whose main principle is rooted deep in getting the most for the least price, they were delighted  when they knew I got a full scholarship ride to one of the most “prestigious” colleges in town. “It’s settled,” they said. I only applied to that school as my backup plan in case things didn’t work out. I had neither the knowledge nor the interest in said field. I was a Science major student in high school. I wanted to be a doctor -still do. So there goes the tale of the demise of my dream – going to Depok to pursue a degree in Medicine.

I tried to do the best that I can with this choice given to me. I get good grades, spend my time studying subjects that can improve my skills, and hang out with friends. I took on the chances offered by my school to compete in English – as I like the subject very much- and found out that I like the world of journalism. This is quite a different path that I am taking now, but I am doing it one step at a time. Baby steps, they say. The journey has been rewarding for me. And I also feel happier, if a little bit scared – I have a goal to achieve.

So, here are a couple of the things that I have learned from the ups (there are!) and downs of choosing the wrong major at college:

1. Unlimited Access to Explore New Opportunities
Let’s face it: A lot of us will pick wrong major to study at college – the reasons varying from pressure of parents, better job prospect, or peer pressure. The effect of this will usually manifest itself in some sort of “nothing-to-lose” attitude. This is good. It will force you to try your hands on every opportunity that is remotely attractive to you. As the result, you will end up knowing what you want and what you don’t want. Bonus: You are guaranteed to have lots of good stories to tell.
2. Help to Re-focus Your Life Goal
I sat down and really thought about what I would want to do in the future now – a year from graduation. It helped that I went through this process early. I found the answer early as well. Don’t underestimate this process. This will help you to really get to know yourself and push you to take a hard look at your life.
3. Incentives to Learn More
You pick the wrong degree at college,so what? Don’t let this stop you from learning the stuff that you will need in pursuing your dream job. This means extra work, but consider it as investment for your future. You will know more.
4. Expanding Network
This is a given. If you are trying to break into something new with no prior knowledge and credible credits, you will ask a lot of people. Some of them will help you, some won’t. But you persevere and sometimes you get lucky; they will be your contacts.
1. Panic Attack
If you are somebody who firmly believe that good education equals good jobs (just like me), you will have quite a number of these episodes. Breathe through them. Bad thoughts of ending up jobless and miserable will pop up as frequent as your bad mood swings; you need to learn to manage them, the sooner the better. It’s the unavoidable part of life. I find praying and talking to my friends about what’s bothering me help lessen the effect.
2. Feeling Guilty
I felt tremendously guilty on the first year of college with myself. I started school a bit late, so I felt like I was wasting the time that I couldn’t afford – and also money. I haven’t found any effective strategy to handle this issue. So, I just used books as distraction most of the time.
3. Hefty Workload
You will have to do every thing twice harder (or even multiple times harder) to prove that you are capable in a job that is in different field as your major. Your resume won’t exactly back you up. For fresh graduates, the experience will be difficult and can break your spirit. Just keep in mind: If you get the job, you will do what you love. It won’t feel like work.

I haven’t encountered the scary world of employment officially yet; It has always been the odd jobs that are totally unrelated to what I want to do. But I do believe that we have big control over how our future will pan out.  I try to keep a positive mind that hard work will pay off and be rewarded, and I keep working toward my goal.

What about you? Are you facing the same situation?


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