Why Your College Major Shouldn’t Define You

Believe it or not, I’ve somehow managed to keep the same major from the time I applied to college until now (disclaimer: for those who don’t know, I’m an incoming senior at Penn State). I remember going to countless college orientations with tour guides and professors telling me, “Oh don’t worry about your major, you can always change it,” and yet here I am and I have still yet to do so. Impressive, right? Recently I’ve learned that you don’t always have to change your major to change what you’re doing with it, which is something that I think is not emphasized enough in the college education system.

A little backstory – I never grew up saying “I want to be a ____ when I grow up” because to be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Even as a senior in high school, nothing really seemed to stand out to me. It wasn’t until I attended Penn State’s “Spend A Summer Day” program that it hit me. After watching a presentation given by the College of Communications, I decided that Public Relations was the perfect major for me. At the time I didn’t know a whole lot about PR, so looking back on it, it’s bizarre to me that I was so sure that’s what I wanted to do.

Penn State does things a bit differently than other colleges. When I applied, I applied directly to the College of Communications, and I was accepted. However, this does not mean you are accepted into your major – that doesn’t happen until the end of sophomore year, given that you meet the requirements for acceptance (which for me was a 3.3 GPA and a few required classes). I was accepted into my major on time and as planned, but I hadn’t really taken any classes within my field. I took an intro PR class and essentially that was it. 

As a junior, I started to get more into my core PR classes, and while I expected to really enjoy them, I sort of dreaded them. My professors were great and the classes were challenging and relevant; however, I started to realize that maybe PR wasn’t entirely what I thought it was. Sure, there were parts of PR that I did enjoy, but I quickly realized that there were also a lot of parts that I wanted nothing to do with – especially long-term as a career.

I also decided to pick up Business as a second minor (to add to my current Sociology one) this past year, and found myself enjoying my marketing class much more than all of my PR classes combined. I started getting nervous that I had chosen the wrong major and that there was no way I could switch and still graduate on time. I began looking more into marketing internships and careers and less and less into PR.

At the end of the semester, I ended up accepting an opportunity as an in-house marketing intern for a full-service firm in my area. Although I’ve only been working about a week, I know that I made a great decision despite the fact that PR isn’t in my job title.

Sure, your college major is important – don’t get me wrong; however, letting it define who you are and what your interests are (or should be) is not okay. This past year I was trying to force myself to love my major, which clearly wasn’t working. While my core PR classes provided me with great knowledge and experience, I’ve realized it’s not entirely what I want to do, and that’s okay. Fortunately, a lot of the skills I’ve learned in my major classes can be useful in other fields such as marketing, which is much more interesting to me.

Overall, it’s not all about what you learn; it’s also about what you do with it. Your major is such a minuscule part of your long-term success, so why let it define who you are or what you should be doing? Do what makes you happy, because in the end that’s all that matters anyway.

Oh, and contrary to popular belief: you don’t always have to change your major to do what you love ☺

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