Changing your Life Plan (and why it’s okay!)

Here it goes: I’ve had five different majors since I’ve enrolled at Northeastern University. Their range is from different concentrations of business to mathematics and the sciences. In case you’re curious, here’s the list: (1) Marketing (2) International Business (3) Business Administration (4) Mathematics and Finance and (5) Mathematics and Biology. It may have taken a year of switching around and being unhappy to determining what I love and want to do. At the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters?

You should be able to fall asleep at night comfortable with the decisions you’ve made. From an academic standpoint, I was having a crisis my first year. I was a business student, enjoyed what I was learning, but was not having that deeper connection and passion that I wanted with it. A year later, I made a switch to a completely opposite discipline: mathematics and biology.

So what was that process like?

In one word: stressful. If you’ve been in a position where you’ve had to change your major, I’m sure you can understand where I was for my entire freshman year. I was unsure, confused, and didn’t really know where I was heading. I felt as if I was a regular in academic advising. I was researching all different majors and careers at night. I thought about it for a few months, letting the idea of being okay with a complete mashup in my life plan. Then, it just clicked one day. Just like that, I knew I was unhappy and needed to do something about it.

I was dragging out the process. In all honesty, it’s scary being that unsure about your academic career. And I was scared to make the leap to switch out of business to the sciences. But I am beyond glad I did.

The best part: it’s 100% okay. If you’re unhappy with where you are going in your career, press pause. Think hard to find what is the cause of your unhappiness, and act on that need to be happy. You deserve to be happy.

So, if you’re thinking about making a change in your life plan, here’s a few tips on how to get the wheels turning, from someone who has been in your shoes:

Stay calm. Relax, drink a cup of tea, and take deep breaths. It is completely normal to ponder this and you are not alone in wanting to make a change.

Talk it out. Make an appointment to speak with your academic advisor or even an academic advisor of a major you are considering. Both ends will help you make the decision by educating you and providing you with more resources to consider and reach out to.

Be confident. Have faith in the switch you’re making. You’ll feel it in your heart when you are making the right academic switch. Yes, it is scary, but let your heart drive you to learning about what you are passionate about.

Photo courtesy of forbes.com.

Colette Biro is a 3rd year Biology and Mathematics major with a minor in Chemistry. She is currently on her first co-op in a biology lab at Northeastern working on transgenerational immunity in social insects. Colette is passionate about running, November Project and being a Husky Ambassador. Feel free to reach out to her at biro.c@husky.neu.edu.

The Lost Art of… Art (as a major)

art history picThis guest post was written by Katie Merrill, an NU and BC alum and Academic Advisor for the Honors Program at NU.

I can remember being eighteen years old and having just gotten accepted to my dream college. I was sitting with the student handbook and course catalogue in my lap, and flipping through all the possible majors I could declare.  There were classes I had never seen before, topics I was eager to explore, and a few I was thankful to be free from (goodbye math!!!). I remember my father telling me that I could major in anything I wanted, that the purpose of college was the quest for knowledge (he comes from a liberal arts mindset), and so scanning the pages I picked out the two subjects I liked the best in high school: history and art.  I couldn’t decide which I wanted to pursue, so I figured why not squish them together? Mind you, I had never taken an art history course before in my life, but I liked museums and Indiana Jones’ adventures as an archaeologist, so I thought that was reason enough to declare an Art History major. I spent four years studying all the great artists through the ages, and even spent a semester in Italy taking art lessons and eating gelato.

Not once, during my entire undergraduate career, did I have that desperate thought I hear so often today as an advisor: “But what am I going to do with That?…”

The answer? Anything you want. My degree in art history taught me to examine things analytically, to write well, and to understand how others organize thoughts and information. Did it lead me to becoming a world renowned Art Historian? No. But it could have, if I hadn’t had an internship at a highly regarded art museum, during which I learned that I had no interest in becoming a curator.  Pouring over texts in Dutch and spending all day in the underbelly of a museum was not my passion. (Note: the basement of even the most beautiful museum still looks like a basement.) The point is that it was the skills I learned that mattered, not necessarily the content. That is why experiences are so important to your undergraduate education.  Very basically, experiences teach us about our likes and dislikes. Better yet, intentional and meaningful experiences can teach us about what we do or do not like about a career path.  They can teach us our strengths and weaknesses, about our abilities to adapt, our way of interpreting new information, and they can shape our values and goals.

I am not saying that everyone should switch majors to pursue something with art.  What I am saying, is don’t rule anything out completely because you have rationalized in your head that one major is going to set you on a path to success, while another will condemn you to eating ramen for the rest of your life.  I think it is important to pursue what you love and stop worrying so much about the end result. Skills and experiences are what lead you to succeed, not necessarily the specific content you studied. After all, that’s what graduate school is for.

Katie Merrill HeadshotKatie is an Academic Advisor for the Honors Program at Northeastern University. She studied art history as an undergraduate in Boston, and received her Masters degree in College Student Development and Counseling from the Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University. She likes to run and cook in her free time.