Just kidding, there’s no guide.
College is a huge investment, and with rising costs everywhere, today’s students are feeling the pressure to make the absolute right choices when it comes to preparing for their futures. But in a world that is constantly changing, what are the right choices?
A study done by Grand Canyon University found that 70 percent of Americans believe that age 18 or 19 is too early to decide on a major, while 48 percent said that they felt an intense pressure to make the right choice. 63 percent of respondents said they did not know which major to pick and chose one based on feeling and 62 percent of graduated respondents said that they wished they could go back in time and change their major.
It is generally agreed upon that most people pick their field of study either for passion or for future salary (unless you are one of those people who is super passionate about something that makes a lot of money, in which case, wow, how does it feel to win?), and the debate over which is the better avenue has fair arguments for each side. The same GCU study reported that, on average, 81 percent of Americans pursued their passion while the other 19 percent chose their major for money. It is important to note, however, that the trend shifts slightly for Gen Z students, with 22 percent of students pursuing a career path they are uninterested in for the sake of money, compared to the 16 percent of our millennial predecessors who did the same. When I look at my life and the lives of my fellow students and the economic state of the world we are soon to inherit, this shift makes sense. It feels as if the weight of the modern world and the uncertainties of the generations before us exacerbate this pressure we feel to pick the right thing.
Members of the retiring baby boomer generation changed career paths, on average, 2.62 times in their lives, according to the same study done by GCU. Gen Z workers, on the other hand, already have changed career paths an average of 2.82 times, and they are still just entering the workforce.
I see this as a good thing; maybe being able to adapt to different careers is not a weakness of our generation, but instead a useful skill we can acquire.
None of those statistics are surprising—we already know that the university model is starting to shift from what it looked like to the generations that came before us, and the job field will always partially reflect that. If this is true, then what you major in ultimately should not matter (with the exception of highly specialized fields like nursing or engineering, but even then there is always an opportunity to pivot), as long as you are able to get your prerequisites in for whatever graduate program you would like to pursue, or keep your studies general and specialize yourself for a variety of careers. Remember, a large majority of surveyed Americans said that 18 or 19 is too early to choose a field of study, and one day, I’m sure we’ll agree. The world will not look the same to us in twenty or thirty years, partially because we are presently young and naïve and inexperienced, but also because the world is changing — we cannot expect ourselves to predict the future.
If you are starting to feel the pressure, if you are starting to feel like you’re signing up for the rest of your life with every class you take, trust me, I have been there, I still am there some days, and it is not necessarily so. Lots of people say it is wiser to follow your passions so you feel motivated to work, while others share the sentiment that your job is your job, and your hobbies should be kept separate. Plenty of other people say that you should not go to college for any reason other than to set yourself up for the best possible career, while others say that it is a time of social exploration and self-discovery.
All of these conflicting statements fester the question at the center of many students’ anxieties: what am I doing this for? What is the best way?
Here’s what I think: do what feels right and be prepared to roll with the punches. Nothing is ever guaranteed, and while that can be a terrifying thought, it is also kind of comforting. Change is a facet of life that nobody can escape, and the ability to adapt to it is likely that the most important lesson college will teach any of us. Put all of your effort forward, and everything will find a way of working out for you.
But, hey. If you find yourself reading this article then you most likely go to school here, so I have no doubts that you are doing that already. You got this.