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A Guide to Choosing Your Major: For Those Who Thought They Were Set

Written By: Kayla Tran

Kayla is a second year at the University of Washington studying public health. She later intends to double up and major in microbiology as well, to pursue her career goal of becoming an infectious disease epidemiologist!

"My decision to get involved at Hey Mentor is largely motivated by my desire to give back to the program that has helped me get into college myself. Learning how to navigate the process of entering higher education has allowed me to be where I am today, which has opened up a world of possibilities. I want other students to benefit the same way I have by uplifting other students on their academic/career journey at Hey Mentor. This is a small thing I can do to reduce the inequities that play out our education system, and working with like-minded peers at this program gives me so much joy!"


So you’ve enrolled in college--now what?

For most of us, soon after we’ve decided on the school we want to attend, our next priority is to decide on what to study. Some of you have picked a major long before you even chose a school, and some of you are relying on the possibility that you’ll figure it out in time. There’s yet another group of people, however, who are certain about what they want to study, but only to be met with intimidation and the feeling that they are no longer good enough to follow their interests.

I happen to belong to that group of people. During my first quarter of college, my performance in general chemistry fell far behind not only my peers, but also my expectations. With a STEM GPA lower than what was required for an application to the School of Public Health, I ironically felt unfit for the plans I specifically made for myself. Of course, this called for a half-identity crisis (remember--school does not define the entire you… just half of you if you allow it, and I allow it).

So I asked all the questions:

-Do I have to reconsider what I want to study?

-Do I even want to study anything other than public health?

-Should I give up on science classes?

-Should I give up on science altogether?

-Will I even be any good at anything else?

-Isn’t it better to just drop out?

-What now?

I ultimately chose to persevere. Rather than continuing on with general chemistry, I took biology and earned a grade meeting the requirements to the Public Health major. That is not the main takeaway though! To navigate my uncertainties about choosing a major, it helped me to make a decision by prioritizing my interests. In this case, there would be tradeoffs. My poor chemistry grade revealed that if I want to follow my goal of pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health, I will be earning numerous more grades lower than what I would normally expect for myself. As long as I was still meeting minimum requirements, the positive side is that I would get to study what I enjoy. I might even argue that when you are able to learn what you like to learn, you are more likely to perform better too.

My main message for you is that it is okay to suddenly question what you thought you wouldn’t. College is a huge mental transition that is socially and academically challenging. If your plans suddenly look harder than you imagined them to be, have no fear! Unapologetically have your half-identity crisis. Ask all the questions. Don’t lose sight of your interests--use them to decide whether you want to choose a different route.

In any case, your decision will have been a product of reconsideration--of greater certainty than what you entered college with.

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