Are you a major changer? You are not alone

As I read about how “We are Cecil College” blogger Kyra Gaskill has wrestled with choosing the right major, it brought back memories of my time as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh nearly 30 years ago. Whereas I am fairly certain that being a veterinarian, actor or nurse never made my list of possibilities, I can definitely relate to what Kyra has gone through and continues to deal with.

When I first arrived at college, I thought I wanted to own a sporting goods store.

Growing up in central New Jersey, I thought Herman’s World of Sporting Goods was one of the coolest places in the world. I loved walking around this massive playground of a store where I could shoot a basketball, swing a baseball bat, throw a football, and try on some jerseys and sneakers. Though the last Herman’s closed in 1996, you can picture what I was experiencing if you have ever been to Dick’s Sporting Goods. I was so enthralled with this concept that I decided I wanted to be a sporting goods store owner.

I figured the best way to prepare me for this goal would be to study business, which was my intent when I enrolled at Pitt in 1987. Shortly after my arrival, I learned that acceptance into the university did not mean I could call myself a business major quite yet. Just like our nursing and physical therapist assistant programs at Cecil require a series of prerequisites to be taken before applying for admittance, Pitt’s business degree had an application process that could not be completed until the required courses were taken.

Acceptance into the University of Pittsburgh did not necessarily mean I could be a business major.

Undeterred by this revelation, I began to take the classes that would put me on the path to being a successful businessman. I studied microeconomics, macroeconomics, calculus, statistics and other relevant topics. I worked very hard in these classes but could not do any better than earning B’s and C’s, which were not good enough to make me a business major. Since several of the classes I had taken could be applied toward an economics degree, I opted for a new major. Not only could economics be declared without any further admissions process, but it seemed like it was as close as I could get to business.

Although I continued to plug along in my economics classes, the work became increasingly more difficult and I was beginning to question my choice of study. Around this time, I registered for Introduction to Journalism on a whim. Though I had never thought of writing as a career, it was something I always enjoyed and people told me I was good at. I liked Introduction to Journalism so much that I followed it up with classes in newspaper writing, magazine writing, sports writing and public relations. Along with enjoying these courses, I was grasping the materials much easier than I was comprehending my economics lessons. I was also finally seeing some A’s on my papers and final grades.

The lightbulb in my head guided me toward my career.

I am not sure if it happened instantaneously or over a period of time, but a lightbulb turned on in my head signifying I should possibly be thinking about a different career. Since I was more than halfway done with my economics coursework, I was not ready to throw in the towel on mastering supply and demand, opportunity cost, inflation and interest. While I did not know what I would do with this combination, I opted to pursue two degrees by double majoring in economics and English writing. Maybe I could write for the “The Wall Street Journal” or “Forbes.”

To make a long story short, I was done in by a class in labor economics and fell two courses shy of the degree. With my 24 economics credits in tow, I unofficially call it my “double minor.” I did continue to thrive in my English writing curriculum and graduated with one Bachelor of Arts. While grades do not mean everything, my 2.5 GPA in eight economics classes and 3.68 GPA in seven English writing classes are pretty telling to me.

Along with some extracurricular activities and internships, which I will address in a future blog, those writing classes laid the groundwork for my full-time career in collegiate public relations that is at 24 years and counting. I never did open up the sporting goods store, nor do I have any desire to do so at this point of my life.

Kyra and I are just two of many, many students who have struggled with deciding what we want to be when we grow up. Believe it or not, approximately 80 percent of college students in the United States change their major at least once before graduating. If you talk to any of your professors, or other college graduates, there is a pretty good chance they will have a story about how the major they ended with is not the one they started with.

I test drove three different majors at Pitt.

Had I not registered for that first journalism class, I might never have known how much I truly do love writing and that it could be a major part of my professional life. If you see a class that interests you, but also might be a little outside your comfort zone, give it a shot! Think of college as a chance to test drive a career before buying it. This is your time to kick the tires, look under the hood, and rev the engine. Between your coursework, the knowledge and experience of your instructors, and other training opportunities, you can get a great feel for career options related to your major and find out if it is something you might want to do for the next 40 or so years.

How about you? Have you changed your major?

Adam S. Kamras is the public relations coordinator at Cecil College.