Friday, April 9, 2010

The Big Question

"What's my major?"

Few incoming First Years are going to have to worry about this the moment they get here, or probably even their entire first two semesters... But as of about right now I know a lot of my peers are starting to get nervous about finding a major.

It's hard. I suppose a lot of other high school seniors were like me in that they knew exactly what they were going to major in. After all, every major is so glaringly different that it's easy to pick out which is better. And no matter what anyone says about "your mind will change so-and-so many times while in college", I know I'll be the exception.

Macalester took that mindset, tore it up into little pieces, and kicked me right smack in the jaw.

I went from being an English major to an International Studies major to a Political Science major, then over to a Psychology major, back to an International Studies major with a minor in Political Science. After that I was an American Studies major, then a Sociology major. I went back to Psychology again, then FINALLY settled in Anthropology.

Crap... So, needless to say my assumptions were thrown out the window. Finding a major, for a lot of people, is not easy. Throw in a double major, multiple minors, concentrations, pre-med, and you've got a potent cocktail of headaches and anxiety.

Now, I can't say I know best, nor do I know what works for everyone. I do know the strategy that worked best for me in terms of picking a major, so hopefully this will help.

For Triple-majors

I think about all I can say here is: Good luck. Personally, I would never do it just because that would eliminate the idea behind a liberal arts education. You want to be able to explore and have a wide breadth of knowledge. Triple-majoring is going to keep you from that, locked in those three subjects that probably overlap extensively anyway.

The advice I give: I know I've said this in a previous post, but the things you need to discover about yourself are the questions you want to ask and how you want to go about asking them (your method of inquiry). Having a triple major either means you like three methods of inquiry or have no idea what method you prefer.

For Double-majors

More do-able than a Triple major by far, but still not easy. Making a plan for your next four years here would be crucial; you need to know what classes you want to take and when, organizing it so that times work out and professors won't be on sabbatical. Also, there are more likely to be two different methods of inquiry that you like and could use in conjunction.

The advice I give: Double majors are much more common at Macalester. When you do a double major you'll still be sacrificing a lot of your ability to explore classes and departments, but there may be a tad bit of room. Just don't forget to fulfill general education requirements. Personally, I wish I could Double major, but I just wouldn't be able to do all of the other things I really want to do. There are some classes in a multitude of other departments that I want to take.

For Single majors

This is the most common, of course. You have a lot more room to work with requirements and have the flexibility to have multiple minors and/or a concentration. You also have room to take a good number of classes from all over the department spectrum. This is what I'm doing now, and I find that I like it quite a bit.

The advice I give: People will tell you all kinds of different things. Some say that having as many majors, minors, and other fancy departments as possible on your transcript is impressive. Some say it's the classes that matter. Some say it's the grades. Parents can sometimes push their kids towards certain majors. In my opinion the undergraduate experience should be, and is, for you. You should use this opportunity to both learn about things that you think are interesting while also exploring, finding other interesting things and becoming a more well-rounded person.


Talk with your adviser. It can be the luck of the draw on whether or not you get a good one, but don't fret if you don't. Professors all over campus are more than willing to talk and give advice. Likely as not you'll have one that you like in your first year, so get to know him/her. They're smart; that's why their teaching college students.

Long post, right? Could be longer. And next week I'll probably talk about Concentrations, which a lot of people don't really learn about (which is too bad, because they're so wonderful).