by Amanda Yen – Student Writer


Getting Off the Ground

  1. Start with what you’re interested in.  You’ll excel in areas that excite you, and that tends to show through in the work you complete.  Take research.  If you’re passionate about what you’re researching, it feels less like work.  It’s something you want to do, not something you have to do.
  2. Know that there’s more than just STEM.  There’s a lot of biotech in San Diego, so you might think that science majors exclusively get high-paying careers.  But there are a lot of industries beyond those that dominate San Diego, and an undergraduate degree can pretty much be applied to any career.  If you liked English and history in high school, check out some of the other humanities and social sciences fields usually not offered in high school: anthropology, philosophy, sociology, psychology.
  3. Look at common career pathways from that major, but remember that degrees can cross fields.  One of my mom’s friends works for a local biotech firm –– and she has a Bachelor’s in history from Bryn Mawr.  You don’t necessarily need a science degree to work for a science company, just like you don’t need a degree in Business to work for a business.  As long as you can translate the skills you earn in college to a work setting, you’ll succeed.
  4. Ask questions and seek out mentors.  This is as simple as asking a friend of your parents’ or a friend’s parent to get coffee.  I know it’s scary to ask real adults about their lives and jobs, but it’s also really helpful in figuring out what path you might want to pursue.  Ask them about what they do, what they like and don’t like about their jobs, and how they got there, for starters.  This is your first step into networking, which is going to be important through college and beyond.

Now Chill a Little.

  1. Remember that you’re not married to your major.  It’s very common to change majors in college, so what you designate on a college app is usually just an indication of the area you might concentrate in.
  2. Be okay with being undecided.  But if you do this, make sure the school you’re applying to has lots of majors that you’re interested in.  When you decide later, you’ll want lots of good options.
  3. Accept advice, but know it’s your choice.  Parents, friends, and teachers may have ideas about what you’ll be good at or what’s best for you, and their insight is valuable.  But ultimately this is your decision and your college experience, so you should choose something you’re really interested in.  We tend to excel at the subjects that genuinely interest us, and are more motivated to work for it.

Above all, don’t sweat it.  I know it’s easier said than done, but you can trust that you’ll end up in the right place.  I entered my freshman year at Georgetown undeclared.  I’m now majoring in American Studies, a field I didn’t even know about until I got to college.  It’s cliché, but it really does all work out eventually.

Michelle Mai

Michelle Mai

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