To the First Year’s Who Aren’t Sure They Made the Right Decision

It’s been almost a month since classes started, summer has come to an end and the mid-term period is upon us. As a first year student, this was about the time of the term where I started to ask myself questions: Did I take the right courses for my degree? Will I enjoy them? Will I do well in them? What if this is not what I want to do at all? While some students know exactly what classes they want to be in and what career path they want to take, for many others, it is not as clear cut.

To be completely honest, I never had a clue what I wanted to study. For the longest time in high school, whenever asked what I wanted to do in life, I simply replied with a brief “I don’t know yet” or “I’m not exactly sure”. It was only in my senior year that I decided on the spur of the moment, that I’d study English culture and maybe one day, enter the field of journalism, so when university came around and my IB transfer credits allowed me to begin my first year in U1, I chose to major in English, with a communications minor.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that this was not at all what I wanted do, and so my major changed to Environment, something I genuinely enjoy studying. I continued to minor in communications, and although interesting and thought-provoking, this, too, was something I lost passion for. Several times I fell behind on readings and then struggled to gather the motivation to catch up, and I often looked forward more-so to the end of class than to the start of it. At the end of my first year, I decided I couldn’t continue on with this minor – not because there was anything wrong with it, but because it wasn’t the right fit for me. I spent much of my summer searching, and searching some more, for a new minor. I looked through lists of programs and courses and despite the plethora of options, why was it so difficult to find something else to pursue?

I realized I was limiting myself. 1) I didn’t think that I would be “good enough” nor “smart enough” for many of the minors, and 2) I worried that I had spent enough time on my previous minor that opting for another one (especially at the start of my U2 year) was pointless and would only delay graduation. To this, I have a few responses. I’ll first cite Benjamin Franklin at the risk of sounding cheesy and say “you can do anything you set your mind to.” If you really want something and you work hard for it, then you can achieve it. Second, you are much better off delaying graduation by a year if it means doing something you love and working towards a goal than you are rushing to complete a degree you don’t enjoy in the first place. Once I became aware of this, and after much discussion with advisors and reflecting on my part on what I enjoyed learning about in my free time (wildlife biodiversity, oceans ecology, and health geography, to name a few!), I chose two new minors – and only a few weeks into the fall term and I’m already so happy I did!

All this to say: it is completely okay to be unsure of what you want to do, to wonder if you chose the right program, and to want to change the direction of your studies (yes, even if that’s a year or two after you started!). Many more students feel this way than a lot of us realize. As time passes, interests change. Try new classes, learn new things, find out what you want to continue with and what you want to pass altogether. This process is different for everyone, and it’s a never-ending one. Talk to other students, and most importantly, talk to advisors and career counsellors.

Do what makes you enthusiastic about learning, feeds your hunger for curiosity, and drives your passion. If nothing else, at least you will have enjoyed the ride!

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