Undergrad is no time to be undecided

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When children begin to go to school, their parents regard each milestone passionately – a tearful eye as they ride the bus to school for the first time or bring home their first homework assignment.  Children learn the ABCs and then pi and delta, and parents’ hearts flutter like wings all along the way.

Then, children graduate from high school and the joy felt by parents is like “being blessed with a new child” all over again, according to one mother I know.

All of a sudden, everyone wants to tell the poor new college students how to live their lives.

Education is stressful at every stage.  Beginning college is especially stressful because, for the first time, you have to make serious decisions that will affect the rest of your life.

It feels like you’re deciding every detail of how you will live forever after: what sort of place you will inhabit, what sort of people you will hang out with, what sort of food you will eat, even how the generation after you will live, and all seem to come down to this one decision: your major.

This is  the most deciding of all deciding factors,  and when do we have to make this decision?   Coming out from the sheltered shell of high school, suddenly  overwhelmed with the freedom and independence of college, having just become old enough to vote and  buy cigarettes, utterly overwhelmed  by the idea of creating a new identity that will likely last until the  moment of death.

This is when you make the most important decision of your life, and, as is customary with all most important decisions, like deciding what should be your first word or when to take your first steps, everyone wants to meddle.

The lawyer in the family wants you to be a lawyer; the pharmacist wants you to be a pharmacist; the journalist doesn’t want you to be a journalist because she can’t pay the bills.  “I always wanted to be a doctor, but I never could. Why don’t you become a doctor instead?”

Being a doctor sounds fine and almost every parent insists on it, so about half of freshmen start out pre-med, an eighth or so choose something else they like, and the rest are “undecided.”  As if knowing you can be “undecided” for a while is any comfort to a poor soul. The only time it might provide some comfort is if you’re either  way too  stressed about choosing a major  and find relief in postponing it or you just  forgot to think about it over the summer.

Meh, whatever.  Undecided.  They should rename it the “I DON’T REALLY WANNA DECIDE RIGHT NOW. IS THAT OK WITH YOU?” major.

Choosing a major is frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be.  Most often, the only person who cares what your major during your undergraduate studies is the person who will print your bachelor’s degree and needs to know what department name to put on it.

To everyone else in the world, the undergraduate major is that one decision you changed way too many times before you realized you were tired of the paperwork.

Your major now does not, by any means, determine how you will live far into the future.  So study something you enjoy and have a passion for, but take classes from a variety of departments and disciplines with a variety people.

College is the most important moment in your life for one reason: undergraduate education, more than any other stage in education, is the one chance to open your eyes to the world around you.

It is a time to learn as much as you can from as many people as you can meet.  It is a time to learn about yourself, not a time to spend in an identity crisis, confused and overwhelmed.

Your time as an undergraduate student is the in-between sweetness.  It’s the engagement stage – you don’t have any responsibilities yet, but you get all the fun.

Meanwhile, life takes you where it will.

These years are not a time to be stressed about the future or so overwhelmed with newfound independence that you lose yourself.

Undergraduate is where you meet students from all over the globe; it is where you taste the variations in culture and the diversity in the human race.

Undergraduate is where you make the most valuable friendships and learn the most necessary life lessons.  If undergraduate is the most important stage of one’s life, that is the reason.