If anyone is equipped to tell prospective students that it is 100% acceptable to not know what they want to major in, it’s me. I went through three majors before things started to click and I finally settled on something I loved.
I think part of what made me choose a major right away was the feeling that I wouldn’t get into a good enough school if I didn’t. I was probably a B student in high school and applying for an intensive program early gave me a better chance of being accepted. At the time, I was interested in architecture and Syracuse University had the third ranked undergraduate program in the country.
When I did get that acceptance letter, I was thrilled – Syracuse was one of three schools that I had applied to, but it was also my first choice.
I didn’t make it through my first semester; I barely even lasted a month. I was expecting a challenge, but nowhere near what I got. To make a long and awkward story short, I failed that semester – not the kind of fail that the really smart people in your class considered a B-. I had the F kind of fail, so dropping out of the architecture program was a given. It was also easily one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I decided to switch to a B.S. in Economics. I took some classes that were required for the core curriculum and thought I enjoyed it enough to take some more. That lasted all of five seconds before I realized I was wasting my time.
I can look back now and consider myself lucky when I was forced to take a semester off for a surgery that needed to happen. I had a lot of time to think about what I was doing with my life and Syracuse did not look like it was going to make it into the next phase. There was no argument on whether or not I should complete a degree – it was happening, but I couldn’t force myself into another major.
If I learned anything about myself, it was that I needed to find something that I truly enjoyed and would be happy to learn about. Figuring out a career would come later, but a degree was the priority.
The quick transition…
I transferred to Pace University after my time off and jumped right in to some studio classes. I opted to declare my major in Studio Art and a minor in Art History.
I received a lot of criticism for studying towards the BFA.
“Artist’s don’t make money!”
“What can you actually do with that major?”
“When I talk to BFA graduates, I’m usually giving them my coffee order.”
Don’t get me wrong. There are tons of people who will pick those majors, seemingly for the “easy classes” (drawing for homework, cool!) and they’re the ones who give the rest of the Studio Art majors a bad rep. At the same time, I’ve seen classmates find jobs that related to their focus within the major, or like me, veer slightly off that path, but towards something that was still related.
Your major does not always dictate your career path…
When I did start getting a better idea of what I wanted to do, I immediately began applying for internships. It made sense that with how much I loved my studio art classes, it would be smart to find work that would keep me connected to that same passion.
In 2013 and 2014 I applied for 140 internships and jobs, all art-based. I kept, and continue to keep, a spreadsheet of every application I send out and copies of every cover letter or application package, a process that helps me gauge my success. It took a while, but I finally landed a handful of interviews and even managed a few offers.
Even though my major did not give me any relevant learning experience relating to these jobs, I was able to convey enough dedication that it was worth it for me to take an internship on the basis that I’d be learning and figuring out a clearer path within a greater realm of work.