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April 18, 2017
Spider Diary: Majors
Junior and senior year of high school, the stock ice breaker to seemingly every conversation is some variation of, “where are you applying?” When you finally figure out where you’re going to attend, that ice breaker becomes, “do you know what you’re going to major in?”
Subsequently, everybody has their own little stock answer to the question to explain to your aunt or grandmother concisely. But beneath that stock answer often lies the existential dread that you have no idea what you want to major in, or why. Some people know what they want to major in their junior year of high school. I didn’t figure it out until my junior year of college.
I’m a double major in Journalism and Leadership Studies with a minor in Business Administration. It’s awesome to have a degree with three areas of study in three different schools — Arts & Sciences, the Jepson School of Leadership, and the Robins School of Business -- within a liberal arts university. When I say that now as a senior, it sounds like I had it all figured out. But the truth is I tripped into my major backward.
I was originally planning on majoring in something in the business school. I was a freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to do or study, and Richmond has a great business school. This is America, and having a good business education seemed like a pragmatic idea.
I didn’t enjoy my business classes nearly as much as my leadership and journalism classes, but the idea of majoring in something as abstract as Leadership or as scorned as journalism seemed a questionable use of my $250,000 education. I stayed on the business track for two years, mostly due to inertia.
Freshman year, having a vague, general idea for your major is a great start. By sophomore year, your interests should be coming into focus. I felt “business” was a good idea as a freshman, but realized as a sophomore I had to start drafting an actual plan. The business school offers three majors — Accounting, Business Administration and Economics -- and within those majors you have “concentrations." The concentrations are Accounting, Finance, Economics, Marketing, Management, and International Business. (An example of a b-school major: Major in Business Administration with a double concentration in Finance and International Business)
Accounting seemed like a whirlpool for creativity. Finance seemed like selling your soul to the devil, but you learn how to negotiate a good price. My micro and macro economics professors were less than inspiring. Everything else was meh, except for marketing, which fascinated me. I had narrowed down the things I wanted to study between Journalism, Leadership, and Marketing.
I changed my mind roughly once every 45 seconds. Every conversation I had with friends, family and professors left me with a different attitude. Torn between the three options, the pragmatism of studying business slowly tipped the scales toward a Business Administration major with a Marketing concentration. It helped that my marketing professor was an absolute boss, striking the perfect balance between knowing his stuff and knowing his students.
True Story: Seeking advice/affirmation/emotional reassurance, I approached my marketing professor, who at this point was easily my favorite professor, after class one day. I told him that after a lot of thought, I was going to be a Marketing major. He furrowed his brow, and pulled me outside away from the ears of other students. He looked me dead in the eye, and — I’ll never forget this — said, “Nobody cares what you major in. What can you do for me? What skills do you have? What are you passionate about?”
Visibly stunned, I asked him what I should study.
“Study whatever the hell you want.”
That’s still the best academic advice I received in college. To be sure, some majors matter. If you want to do accounting, you must study accounting, if you want t be a doctor study pre-med etc. But outside of those few areas where you need a specific track, the truth is your major becomes nearly irrelevant after your first or second job out of college. The realization that my major was not going to be the critical fork in the road that decided my future, as retrospectively obvious as it is now, took a massive weight off my shoulders.
One day, walking to my Justice and Civil Society Leadership class, I realized I was excited for class. We were discussing poverty, welfare, and housing discrimination, and the class discussion was going to be intense and some students were going to vehemently disagree. At that moment, it occurred to me that I always enjoyed the walk to my Journalism and Leadership classes. I dreaded walking to my business classes. And that was the moment I realized I should study Journalism and Leadership. My advisor helped me work out a plan to double major, while still using my attained business credits to put me on the path to a minor.
I’m extremely happy with the way my major worked out, but the real point is that any combination was going to work. Like applying to college, the process of making the decision was a valuable experience in itself. The same way that there’s more than one right college for everyone, there’s more than one right major for everyone. Coming to peace with the notion that my major would bear fruit as long as I put the work in, regardless of what path I took, gave me faith.
So if you ever get stressed about what you want to major in, remember to #trusttheprocess, and...
I'm always hungry, usually talking, and an occasionally funny senior double majoring in Journalism and Leadership Studies with a minor in Business Administration. I am the Vice-President of Academic Affairs for the Richmond College Student Government Association, an Associate Editor with The Collegian, the student newspaper, and a brother of Theta Chi Fraternity. This past summer I interned for the Washington Redskins official website, Redskins.com. I am probably procrastinating as you read this.