By Kexin Yu, Peer Advisor
Last week, we, as the representatives of Career Center, tabled at Major Blast 2014 and spoke to hundreds of freshmen within 2 hours. They all looked aspiring, but unsettled at the same time. They bombarded us with similar questions. “I don’t know what to do in the future.” “How can I choose a major?” “Does Career Center offer personality assessments?” I smiled to them, whispering in a voice that they could hardly hear, “Don’t worry. I know exactly how you feel. You are just as the old me one year ago.”
I was under great pressure during my freshman year. When my friends already stamped their ambitious, four-year timeline on the wall and were quite determined about their major decision, I was even struggling with my class planner for my very first quarter. I couldn’t start with the right pre-major courses. Also, being undecided seemed to me a negative state of indecision. I felt so timid (and even a little shamed) every time we were asked to introduce our names and majors to other classmates, since I was still unready and unable to determine my goals.
But I tried to calm down. Being undecided can also mean being open-minded. You can investigate new areas before you make up your mind. This is probably the last time you have such freedom to design your own dream studying plan. When you start to work, endless assignments and responsibilities consume you and you have so little time concentrating on your own interest. Sometimes, people who seem to have a clear vision about their future may be just compromising the matter with their parents. So first, I took introductory psychology, which was one of the fields that I was most eager to explore. The course offered me unparalleled insights into a brand new world. I was totally amazed by the wide application of psychology and the exciting research opportunities it has to offer. We read good books authored by patients suffering mental diseases and even got to meet the writers in person at the end of the quarter. However, it also gave me realistic views about an area which I thought I was very enthusiastic about. I then realized, although psychology is a great subject, that’s not what I want to do for a career.
Don’t be discouraged by words like, “You make little money if you do this job”. You will definitely feel uneasy about this later on in your life, since you reject the opportunity to have a try. Also, don’t push yourself so hard in the first year. Taking GE courses and seminar might also be a smart choice. The film class, architecture history and political science that I took greatly enriched my freshman year at UCLA and led me to get inspired by the ideas and expertise of prominent professors from various cutting-edge areas.
Another advice: being strategic when you enroll in classes. Narrow down your choices by crossing off the ones that fail to appeal you. Choose subjects that not only intrigue you but can also fulfill the requirements of a great many majors. Then you will not fall very behind and graduate in a timely manner just as others. For example, I took Chemistry 20A rather than 14A since the former can apply to more science majors. Starting from scratch will definitely stress you out, especially when your peers are already half the way there! Do more research in the syllabus and contents of the courses that you are likely to choose. Sometimes having the knowledge of what material will be covered help you realize whether or not you are truly interested in this subject. Is this what you really want to spend time exploring and do it for a living?
Also, talk to peers with various majors. I originally thought I would never care about how a computer software actually works and were so prejudiced against programming geeks. And I always believed computer science is an area in which I had no talent. However, it turned out that it was only because I had never tried. A lot of my friends were “tortured” by C++ at that timem and so I also boldly took up this new challenge. To my surprise, I totally fell in love with it. Now, I’m even thinking about take Mathematics of Computation as my major. Moreover, seek answers to your questions from upperclassmen. Get to know what they consider as the most wonderful experience in those upper division courses and learn from their experience.
Remember, everything you learn or spend energy on eventually pays off. Maybe just in an unexpected way. People are frustrated when they begin to do something new because they feel what they’ve already done is just a waste of time. I also took Management 1A, Principles of Accounting, in the spring quarter. Although it seems not related to my curriculum, its philosophy influence me a lot. I become familiar with how a corporation actually runs and how to keep it organized and make best practices. This can apply to all aspects of life and everyone should at least have some knowledge of it. The course also helps me build a broad set of transferrable skills that will provide me not only a meaningful job but also a purposeful life in the future. And which employer would reject a well-rounded applicant?
Try to engage in as many self-discovery activities as possible outside the classroom. Going to Career Center to access our amazing assessment inventories can help you find your way. Also, during the spring break, I joined the UCLA Career PREP program which helps its participants get a glimpse of what a particular industry looks like through a one-day job shadowing experience. Actually, I stayed more than one day but a whole week during my host company, Park & Sylva Law Firm, after I found out that my experience was more than I could have expected. This externship provided me early exposure to professional law world and I could then decide whether or not I still want to enter that field. To get involved in a real working environment gives you more reliable facts about that industry than any TV series version. This unique experience even encouraged me to use what I gained to help other programs at Career Center grow. And that’s how I became a peer advisor for this academic year. (Now it’s only Week 4 and I still have a lot to learn. However, I already feel so lucky and fulfilled being in this position.) Helping others is just helping yourself. I grow so fast when I attempt to address the concerns of others in the best manner.
Although, sometimes my friends frown at my “random” class schedule and always seem confused, “What exactly is your major?” But, see? Isn’t it great sometimes being undecided? I always believe that everything starts with coincidence but ends up with destiny. Things that best match your capabilities and interests will come up to you while you keep wandering and wandering. Also, you should know that your major does not determine your entire career! So don’t freak out!
You should know that you are actually in great company! Studies show that 75% college students change their majors before graduation. Do not figure out all things on your own. Take advantage of resources around you. Make regular academic counseling with your advisors and eventually you will be able to make a concrete, sound choice independently.
So Bruins, take off your anxiety and embrace the chance to explore! Have a nice academic year!