Which box do I check?

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Sarah Pugh grew up in northern Massachusetts, not far from Boston. She is in her third year at Northeastern as a political science major. She ultimately hopes to attend law school and work in the federal judiciary. 

There was this little box on your college applications that said something along the lines of “What program are you applying to?” or “What will be your major?” Some people (the lucky ones) know the answer to this question and have known for quite some time exactly what they want to do. I (and many others) am still trying to figure it all out. And here I am in my third (middler? junior?) year.

When I was filling out my application, I saved that ominous question for last. There was absolutely no way that I was applying as an undeclared student. Because then everyone would know that I didn’t know what I was doing and everyone else has it all figured out, right? After ruling that out, there were only a hundred other choices. Much better.

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It came down to political science or biology — two majors on very opposite ends of the spectrum. I had always enjoyed learning about the government, and watching the debates during elections season was fun too. To be honest, I didn’t know what political science even was. I couldn’t fathom what made it a science. Also, what kind of job would I have with a degree in political science? You can’t just graduate college and become a successful politician. Ultimately I checked the box for biology. After all, I liked AP biology in high school and I did well in it — what could possibly be different?

I went to orientation, met other biology students, and registered for classes. I was excited about my decision. My first semester was filled with microbiology, chemistry, calculus, and economic justice (an elective for the honors department).

After what was only two week’s worth of classes, I hated chemistry, calculus, and worst of all, biology. I loved my economic justice class. It was engaging, the readings were interesting, and I just liked it. I can remember being on the phone with my boyfriend complaining about school and he asked, “If you could be studying something other than biology and you had to choose now, what would it be?” And it was then that I decided to change my major to political science. I loved learning about the government systems and how it affected our everyday lives, and I could figure out what to do with it career-wise later.

Later that week I was in my advisor’s office signing the paperwork and talking to the department head about why I wanted the change. I felt so grateful to be at a school that encouraged its students to explore their interests and that they made changing programs of study so simple. I attended the major fairs that are typically held for the undeclared students to talk with other students. There were these pamphlets that they passed out called “What To Do With a Degree in Poli Sci” — just the question I needed answers to. Today I know that there are plenty of options.

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Technically I am a political science student with a concentration in comparative politics and a minor in international affairs — talk about a mouth full. Furthermore, I’m looking into adding a minor in history. I recently completed my first co-op job at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts as a legal intern. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and have nothing but wonderful things to say about my experiences, though not enough time to share them. In short, I am now looking at law schools for when I graduate from NU.

As cliché as it may sound, the biggest and most important piece of advice to someone that may find themselves in a similar situation to my own is study what you love; the rest will fall into place.

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