Many of you may know that I graduated from college this past May with a degree in Finance. Those four years were such an impactful part of the person that I am today and have taught me many lessons that I still apply to my life as a college grad. I feel like I have gained a lot of knowledge about college that I can share with all of you and you could possibly apply to your own lives. I know that I went to college essentially clueless about what I was about to experience and I want to help you all gain a little more knowledge that I didn’t have both going into and while I was in college. I want to know if you all would like me to create a mini-series on the blog about college life tips and lessons I learned. I previously wrote a post about partying in college that you can read here and thought why not branch out from that and share other things I was conflicted about as a college student. The biggest scare I had going to college is the big question all of us are faced with in high school, “What do I want to do with my life?” In our college applications, we are forced to either choose a major or not and sometimes you aren’t completely sure. Once you graduate from high school, reality hits and you realize you are moving out to study whatever you chose on your application and that is what you’re going to try to find a job doing after graduating college.
For me, I was filling out college applications with minimal guidance. I was a first-generation college student and my high school guidance counselor could have done a little more “guiding” to say it the nicest way possible. I felt alone on the journey to decide what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. In high school, I was a science nerd and really enjoyed chemistry, so much so that I took it two years in a row- once at the high school level and another time for college credit. Knowing this, I thought it only made sense to continue studying it in college since it was familiar and I was good at it. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it as a career because I enjoy talking to people and knew that I wouldn’t enjoy spending the day solo in a lab. That being said, I thought about what else I was interested in. I was taking AP psychology at the time and really enjoyed it so I thought that I may be able to dual major in Chemistry and Psychology and try to work in a forensic science type of position. I decided I was going to apply to the schools I was interested in as a psychology and chemistry dual major. In the spring of senior year, once acceptance letters started rolling in, I started to research more about my “future job” and was slowly realizing that my “dream job” wasn’t a real position like you see in TV shows. At that point, I felt defeated and scared about graduation day approaching. I didn’t want to speak to anyone about it because I honestly didn’t know what to say. I just thought to myself, “I’ll figure it out when I get there”. One night when I was on Skype with Brian (my bf) and I asked him why he decided to apply to schools in hopes of becoming an Accountant. I honestly didn’t even know what an accountant did. He told me that he had an internship in high school working in an accounting position and that his school had a program that prepped students who were interested in studying business. I was so jealous that he could explain it to me with such certainty that it was what he wanted to do.
Quietly that night, I started researching what programs Canisius had to offer, including the 5-year accounting program and was wowed by the stats the program held. It was a prestigious program and they were securing students in the workforce upon completion. I have always been a competitive person by nature and the idea of an elite and difficult program was something that made my eyes sparkle as I read about. Later that night, I decided to tell him that I wasn’t completely content in my decision to apply to college as a Psych/Chem dual major and I was having second thoughts. He was completely understanding about it and made me realize that I shouldn’t feel so silly about admitting I was unsure. I talked to him some more about career prospects in accounting as well as more about the program and by the end of the night, I knew I wanted to make a change. This was only a few weeks from my move-in date to Canisius and at this point, I already had been sent my schedule of classes for my first semester. Despite my nerves, I pulled myself together and told my parents that I was making the change to an accounting major and called the registrars office.
I was very nervous throughout the whole process because up until that point, I was very secure about who I was and what I wanted and in this moment, I wasn’t more unsure about anything in my life but something in my heart was telling me that it was the right move.
The woman in the registrar’s office was completely understanding and told me that changing your mind and major is normal.
She also told me that it wouldn’t be abnormal to change my mind even another time before graduating. I thought she was crazy at the time, but in the end… she was right. On the very first day of classes junior year, I went to visit the assigned mentor for the accounting department and told him that I wanted to apply for a program that Canisius offers in the business program to gain job experience in equity research as a student. I thought it was so amazing that my school offered the program and it was something that I had my eye on since freshman year. I was extremely frustrated by the end of the meeting after learning that the mentor told me that I couldn’t join the program as an accounting major and even more frustrated when accounting department faculty members told me I “didn’t want to anyway” and the program wasn’t “what it was cracked up to be”. I am very determined and don’t like to be told that I can’t do something. That week, I said in my dorm room and reflected on what I wanted to do for what seemed like years. I had two very different paths in front of me.
To apply for that program, I had to change my major to finance and start taking advanced level finance courses to make my application stand apart so I had the best chance to get in as possible. Or, I could surrender to the words of my mentor and the accounting department faculty and continue on the road I was on. Again, the anxiety of the uncertainty got the best of me. Did I want to show weakness and change my major again? I realized that changing your major isn’t a sign of weakness at all. It was silly but natural for me to feel that way, but it was me actually fighting for what I knew I would be happy with. I went to the finance department and sat with professors I had taken for electives and one of them told me, “If you wish to change your major, we would love to have you and I know you will be successful.” Now I know that in one way, college is a business and it’s in the end all about numbers when it comes to being able to teach a certain class and that each department acts in the best interest of itself but I had never felt as comfortable in the presence of the accounting faculty as I had when I was speaking with those professors in the finance department. It was the little bit of comfort I needed to feel good about the decision that I knew that I was inevitably going to make. Against the wishes of my current professor and mentor, I decided to visit the registrar again. I was more scared at that point than ever when I created my new schedule for the semester and dropped all of the classes I was supposed to have taken that first day back. Did I make the right decision? Would I get into the program I wanted to join? I had to have faith in myself that I made the best decision for me and focus on excelling in my new finance classes.
I was taking classes with all seniors who were taking them as a last minute elective. I filled my entire schedule with classes that most finance majors at Canisius don’t even take and I was thrilled with all that I was learning. I knew that I had made the right choice and I would be happy even if I didn’t get accepted into the program. I mean I would obviously be very upset but I would have been comfortable knowing that I learned so much valuable information that I would still be a valuable candidate for any job I wanted. On Easter my junior year, I got the email telling me that I had been accepted. I was on Spring break in D.C. in a Wal Mart with Brian and we had both been accepted. We were jumping up and down and shrieking. It was so big of a scene that we made that the cashier congratulated us. We made fools of ourselves but in that moment, we knew that all of the uncertainty that we had experienced over the past few months was finally coming to fruition. My senior year flew by with all of the work that the program demanded but I could not be more thankful for everything I gained from being a part of it. I never thought that I would have had such a truly life-changing experience in college but that program helped me develop into a professional who can speak to professionals about my value, and really just carry myself as a professional in the business world, not to mention all of the actual knowledge that I gained. It was the most beneficial year of college and I almost didn’t experience it in fear of uncertainty.
So if you are out there reading this and you are unsure about what you want to major in or are thinking about changing your major and you’re passionate about another potential major, I’m here to tell you that it is okay. You don’t always have to have a concrete plan and life will be uncertain at times. Follow your heart and figure out your plan along the way. If you are uncertain about what you want to study, do like I did and pick something that you are at least interested in and take your free time during your freshman year (you will have a lot of it) to research more about your career possibilities and interests. Maybe one of your electives will attract your attention! Most schools schedule you to take general education classes anyway for the exact purpose that most people change their minds in their first or second year! If you change your mind, most if not all of your credits will apply to your new major and you will still be on track. Worst case you may have to take an extra class a semester or two, which won’t be as hard as it seems in your next three years when you are in the swing of things! I changed my major in my 3rd year and still graduated on time without having to take any summer courses and I only took an extra class for my own interest! You will be okay. Just follow your heart.
As always, if you have any questions for me, leave them in the comments and I will get back to you!! Also, make sure to let me know if you want to see more college tips/advice posts and if you haven’t already, check out my post about drinking in college!!
QOTD: “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”
Until next time,