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It's OK to not know your major

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AUGUST 25, 2017

The first year of college probably has the steepest learning curve among all your years in college. There’s so much to learn and so many big decisions — living alone, feeding yourself, doing your laundry, making new friends, and of course, choosing your major.

And I really struggled with this last one. There are some students who know exactly what they want to do before, during and after college. But I, like many others, couldn’t have been more clueless.

When I was a senior in high school, I applied to 20 different colleges as a neuroscience major. My goal was to become a doctor who traveled the world and practiced journalism on the side.

But before I even arrived at Berkeley, I switched my intended major to computer science. My new goal was to learn computer science and apply my newfound coding skills to journalism.

Throughout my freshman year of college, my “intended major” changed by the month, week and day just like that. In one year, I took courses in computer science, calculus, African American studies, history, and Dutch studies. Ask me about any major, and I can tell you the requirements — I seriously considered majoring in economics, English, history, African American studies, computer science, sociology, political economy, ethnic studies, public health and neuroscience.

What’s my major now?

It’s a secret.

That’s my favorite part about being that girl who always changes her major — I’m not defined by it. When it came to deciding my major, for a while, I felt accountable to the people around me. I worried that they thought I was a joke because I just couldn’t seem to figure it out.  Everyone expects you to know your major and your passion by the age of 17 — before is even better — so you can apply to colleges and follow your dreams for the rest of life! But I’m so glad that’s not how it works.

Friends and family have stopped asking me what my major is because they just can’t keep up with my varied interests. Out of this loss of expectations comes freedom for me to think, and really think, about how I want to spend my time in this institution.

Of course, counselors will reassure you that you don’t have to know your major yet — but to be frank, after some time, you do have to know and declare. But the time will come when you just know what kind of classes you want to take and how you want shape your mind during your time at UC Berkeley.

I don’t know why I gave what I’m studying so much thought and analysis — there are many other aspects of college that define your experience. But after all my constant analysis and deliberation over what I wanted to major in, one day I was just walking down the street to campus for a final and it hit me: I do want to be a doctor after all.

You might think that nothing changed between now and 17-year-old Malini, but that’s the opposite of the truth. It would be more accurate to say that I majored in The Daily Californian during my freshman year of college than anything else. Through reporting and writing, I learned so much about the world around me. With my random mixture of classes, I learned about the basics of computers, the complications of calculus, and most notably, the state of marginalized communities and their welfare in this country. So now, my journey in becoming a doctor has been shaped by what I learned in my year of exploration.

Contact Malini Ramaiyer at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @malinisramaiyer.

AUGUST 26, 2017