I work at a college campus. I say this to help set the scene, to make a point that every day I’m up to my eyeballs in college students. I generally see the ones that are going to class in the major that I tend to work (which is light years away from the major I happened to study) but I get a good cross sample of students. The major I tend to work tends to be a hot topic right now, but every once in a while I’ll come across a news story or puff piece or advice from someone that claims to know the deep dark secret to being successful in life and it invariably leads back to one booming piece of advice: “Pick a college major that will get you a job!”
I touched on this a bit ago with my posting about being happy, but I’ve seen it so much lately (It’s Freshman Orientation season. Which means parking sucks. But outsiders driving on a college campus are another rant.) I feel a need to comment on something. Mostly: DON’T pick a college major based solely on what will get you a job.
I’ll give you all a minute to calm down in seeing that I picked the opposite advice from the common wisdom.
College is four years of a microcosm of what you will have in the real world. I didn’t say the real world exactly, but for many people it’s the first opportunity to live on your own, make your own choices with food and money, make your own choices whether to study or chat up that hot blonde chick from Chemistry (Side note: you can always do something to get a better grade) and how to deal with people that you are in close proximity with, but not necessarily by choice.
But college majors aren’t binding contracts. They’re opportunities. Because you study Micro-Neuro-Chemistry-Surgeoning doesn’t mean you will like Micro-Neuro-Chemistry-Surgeoning, nor will you go into Micro-Neuro-Chemistry-Surgeoning. It means that you studied it. And if you didn’t enjoy it, you’ve wasted a small fortune on something that will make you miserable for the rest of your life.
I know this because I’ve been there. I always had the same major since day one of college, but I switched focus in it many, many times. And looking back, I can tell you which classes I didn’t enjoy, because I really didn’t do well in them. The classes I enjoyed… the opportunities I took… those were where I had the most fun. And I may not do anything with them. The jobs I’ve gotten cared that I had a degree, not necessarily what it was in. And it took even longer for me to course correct into what I WANT to do with my life (besides being Spider-man). All because I chose those classes to bolster what I thought my future would hold.
College is on of the last monkey powered rocket car adventures you will have. You may have more, and that's great, but it’s the time you get to try on new hats and decide who you are. (That's not to say you can't make a switch later in life, or it's ever "too late.") But you should spend it studying something you want, not necessarily something that will make you “successful” through the eyes of some arbitrary definition. Success is Happiness.
Take it from someone who was miserable way to long.