A Major Revelation: The Paradox of Choice Strikes Again!

September 10, 2007

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the puns. But major is such a multifaceted word. Who knew, right?

While going for a brief walk, I started to think back to high school and why I really enjoyed all my science classes there. Not to over idealize those days, but I really enjoyed all my science classes in those days. And I wanted to know what had changed between then and now that made science seem less interesting.

And then it hit me: I didn’t choose my science class. Sure, I chose whether or not I wanted to take honors / AP [well, that was kind of a no brainer choice…], but I didn’t choose which subject. Freshmen take Bio, sophomores take Chem, juniors take physics [or in our case, AP Chem], and seniors take, well, in my case, physics. The track stands, and follow it. No choice involved.

Then I got to college. Suddenly I have to pick which of the many tracks I want to jump on. I could go neuroscience, psychology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics [if I were at a different school] and [though this is really pushing it], philosophy [sure, that’s not really a science, but it kind of sort of counts]. And all of them seem attractive. But the fact is, I can’t major in all of them. At most, I can double major in two of them. So I have to pick the track and deal with the classes as they come.

From that, I have to deal with the anxiety that maybe this major isn’t for me. If I’m really not enjoying, say, organic chemistry, does that mean that chemistry isn’t for me, or just that organic chemistry isn’t for me? Either way, I have to sit through the lecture, study the text, and take the test. That’s knowledge-acquisition time I’m not getting back.

Basically, we had our path handed to us up until college. Now suddenly we’re expected to figure it out on our own. Though the situation could be worse: they could make us design our own majors! Oh, god. Then I would be totally screwed!

Some take aways / further thoughts:

  • I might be putting a little too much stock in how my decision of major effects the rest of my life. If I had to guess, I would say that 7 out of 10 people don’t end up doing work in their original field of study. So, eh, it can’t be that bad if you chose the ‘wrong’ major.
  • Choice sucks. But bondage sucks even more. So throw off the shackles, suck it up, and choose!
  • Take this whole education thing as more than just passing tests. Every course, no matter what, offers a chance for growth. You learn a little something about the subject matter, yourself, and the teacher. That’s not a raw deal. Any cognitive activity should be beneficial. So do it for the benefits! [NMR being a case in point. Reading a spectrum from an NMR is much like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Easy, but satisfying]

I think I’ve calmed down a bit about this whole, ‘Oh my god, the foundations of my world are shifting!’ thing.

Which is good, because I have three tests coming up in the next two weeks. And thinking about your major doesn’t help you to pass it!



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