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Confessions of a Transfer Student: Why I Chose My Major

December 7, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I managed an impressive feat, pulling myself out of bed during the brutal predawn hours to register for winter courses.  I’d like to point out that this occurred without the aid of glorious caffeine, and on a Federal holiday no less.  I deserve a gold star.  (So do my fellow students who accomplished the same feat—gold stars for everyone.)

I have to admit that choosing winter classes sent me into a slight panic mode.  As a junior and a transfer student, I only have one quarter here at UW before I’m required to declare a major.  This seems like such a concrete decision, as my major will theoretically become the foundation of and gateway to my career.  After two years exploring general education classes and a quarter of prerequisites, it’s time to answer the ultimate question: what do I want to be when I grow up?

Actually, that part’s easy.  I know what I want to do when I finish college (write novels and start my own independent publishing company).  So the question then becomes, how do I shape my education so that it will benefit me best in pursuing my career?  After all, at first glance it seems that the top major for a potential novelist would be English.  Learn the craft, study the masters, develop workshop and critique skills, and generate a portfolio of prose.  Simple decision.

So why did I decide to declare for Political Science instead?

Like almost every other student on campus, I spent the first two years of my college experience taking courses that would meet general education requirements, exploring topics that I found intriguing.  This is where I learned that I love philosophy, diplomacy, and volcanoes (thank you, geology!).  This is also where I learned that, despite my love for the written word, I’m not a huge fan of literature classes.  I write in my everyday life, and while creative writing programs certainly offer a boon in the practice of craft, I’m not entirely convinced that a creative writing major is the best decision for me.

I started reading industry blogs, curious as to what other writers studied in college.  The answers range across the board, from English to History to Biology to Engineering to Medicine.  The message seems to be clear—the best thing to do with my remaining college years is to study what I love, majoring in something that will hold my interest while also inspiring a wealth of story ideas.  As it happens, the things I enjoy studying most are the things I love to write about: war, ethics, society and diplomacy.  Why Political Science?  Why not?

Some students are lucky.  They have a clear idea of what career they want to go into, and how to line up their major perfectly to achieve that career.  Then there are those of us who are pretty sure about what we want to do with our lives, but there’s no direct or obvious path to accomplishing those goals.  Maybe there are several different majors that could work as the foundation to your career.  Or maybe you’ve applied to your major and didn’t get in, and you’re wondering “what now?”  My advice would be to explore, to take a fresh look at where you want to end up and how you can get there.  Take advantage of all the resources available on campus, from advising center workshops to talking with professors in different departments, and find what drives you.  Don’t be afraid to choose a major that, at first glance, may seem less than obviously connected to your career path.

There are, as we say in the writing world, many roads to Oz.  Whether it is straight or curvy or laden with yellow bricks, don’t be afraid to find yours.

 

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