Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve wanted to be a psychiatrist. I became that pre-pre-med kid in high school; taking AP everything and making straight A’s to make sure I got into a top tier college, hoping it would improve my chances of getting into an equally top tier medical school. My life revolved around the idea that one day I’d be answering to hospital pager while wearing a white coat with “Dr. Workman” stitched on the pocket, and nobody could tell me otherwise.
So you can imagine the collective gasp of surprise when I told my friends and family that I don’t want to be a doctor anymore. At the beginning of my last year of college.
I entered college double majored in Pre-Clinical Health Sciences (which is my school’s fancy way of saying Pre-Med) and Psychology, and stuck with it for four semesters. But the life I planned for myself literally came crashing down around me when I came home from a final exam review session for my organic chemistry class in a complete state of clarity. As I sat there, listening to my sweet professor giving us all the tips and tricks he could think of for the test, my mind was focused on how much I HATED chemistry. All semester, his class gave me nothing but anxiety. I spent all of my time studying, and spazzing out before and after every quiz and exam, despite the fact that I had an A in the class.
The more I thought about how ridiculously unfulfilled I felt in my course of study, the more it occurred to me that I shouldn’t continue it. Why would I continue to make myself unhappy for the next 10 years studying something I absolutely hated? Since I couldn’t think of a single justification, I closed my textbook and opened myself to all of the possibilities that were now available to me.
To say that I freaked out would be an EXTREME understatement. I had planned out everything in my quest for the MD to the point that I made spreadsheets mapping out which classes I would take until graduation, application dates and requirements for my top choice medical schools, and a study schedule for the MCAT. And with my sudden change of heart, I was back to square one. I now had no idea what I would do with myself for the rest of my life and was in a state of existential panic:
What if I change my mind? What if I’m making a mistake? What if this has some massive butterfly effect and ruins my life? Who am I supposed to be now? Ph.D? MD? D always causes problems!
I was driven so absolutely mad with doubt and internal pressure to make a choice that I opted out of taking summer classes to instead reflect and do some research as to what I wanted to pursue. And last week, I finally decided that I would get my Ph.D in Clinical Child Psychology (and made all of the proper adjustments to my spreadsheet #GirlBoss)
When I finally made the choice and stuck to it, I was literally hit with a wave of euphoria. I was so content in knowing that I would spend the next 8 years studying something I was truly passionate about, and genuinely excited about what the future holds.
From my experience, there are three things I want everyone to know about changing majors in college:
1. Uncertainty is okay
We are expected to know exactly what we want to do in life before we’re even allowed to vote, which means you’re letting child you dictate what adult you is going to want 15 years down the road. Everyone always says that “college is a time of growth,” and they’re absolutely right. You change so much between move-in day and graduation that what you thought you liked when you came in may end up being something you can’t stand by the time you leave. College is a time of exploration and self-discovery; both inside and outside the classroom. Allow yourself to question what you want in life, and if you don’t know, don’t sweat it. You’ll find it along the way.
2. Be Open to New Ideas
Luckily for everyone who wasn’t an Advanced Placement Psycho in high school, most colleges have a General Education Program that spans tons of different areas of study. You take English, Astronomy, Psychology, Physics, Economics, as well as the intro classes to your declared major. Instead of dreading these classes, take them as opportunities to learn what you like and dislike academically. One of my friends freshman year took Intro to Computer Programming and absolutely hated it, so much so that he ended up switching from Computer Engineering to Digital Animation. You never know, the right class or professor can really have an impact.
3. DO NOT FREAK OUT
Changing majors is really stressful, but do not let it psych you out. You wouldn’t be changing majors unless you really felt like your original choice wasn’t the right one. It’s scary embarking on a completely new journey, but you have to know that in the end, you’re making the decision that’ll make you happiest in the long run. Breathe, it’s going to be fine.
La Nouvelle Romantique