You may have this idea that you want to go back to school — you may want to finish a degree you started years ago, or maybe life got in the way and you’ve never attended college. Maybe you know it’s necessary if you want to get a promotion at work, or a higher-paying job, or maybe you just want to set a good example for your children. I’ve seen all of these reasons amongst my students — in fact, I’ve seen parents and children taking classes at the same time so they can encourage each other!
For some of you, the way ahead is clear: I need a business degree, or I need a degree in engineering, or I want to become an RN or an EMT. Fantastic! Your course is already set. Now it’s a matter of choosing the right program and going for it.
But you might be reading this thinking: “I know I want to go back to school — but I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! What degree do I choose? What if I change my mind? What if I pick a degree and then I hate it?”
Yup. All very valid concerns. (A note here: any concerns you have are valid! If it worries you, it’s valid.) But if you have no idea what you want to do, don’t worry — for at least the first year, it won’t matter. You don’t have to declare a major right away. You can be “undecided.” That doesn’t mean you don’t have a clue; it simply means you are exploring your options. Don’t let that stop you from getting started. As the Sunscreen Song says:
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don’t.
If you’ve never taken any college courses, this is really important to remember: your first year will be taken up by what we call “core curriculum” or “general education” courses. These include your math classes (College Algebra, Composition I and II, Literature, Biology, Sociology, US History, etc.). If you don’t know what you want to be yet, don’t worry. Take this time to explore your options. Pay attention in class to what piques your interest. Read. Talk to other students. When it comes to your electives (classes that are required but that you get to choose), then take things that look the most interesting to you. I’ve had several students enroll in my history and anthropology courses who come to me later and say “I was doing a major in X until I took your course, and now I’ve changed majors so I can major in Y!” (Talk about an ego boost for your instructors there!)
My point is, at this stage in the game, it’s not necessary to know exactly where you’re going. It’s just necessary that you start that journey. So don’t be afraid to pick “undecided” as your major! Then, don’t be afraid to explore. This is your life. Make it what you want it to be.