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The SparkNotes Blog

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Auntie SparkNotes: Did I Choose the Wrong College?

Attention, Sparklers! Auntie will be on vacation until the end of August, but check back here on the usual schedule for fun, retro columns you might have missed the first time around.

Dear Auntie,

I am heading off to college in the fall, and for the most part I’m looking forward to the transition. Normally, I’m not the greatest at handling big changes, but I’ve spent the majority of my senior year looking forward to trying something new. At least, I thought I was. Earlier in the year I declared my major as mathematics, which at the time made sense because I’m very good at math, and I enjoy it.

However, as of recently, I’ve begun to doubt my interest in pursuing mathematics in college and further on. I’ve started to question what I’m truly interested in and what I could see myself doing for the rest of my life, and as a result I’ve begun to look into other areas such as creative writing, psychology, and philosophy, all topics I had held a passing interest in, but had never seriously considered for a college major. This poses a problem, as my newfound interests don’t exactly coincide with my math major—and to make matters worse, I’ve chosen to attend a STEM school, one of which doesn’t even offer a major in something like creative writing or psychology. Whenever I attempt to talk to my parents about this, they automatically disregard my argument—they believe that my true talent lies in math, that not using my math gifts would be not living up to my true potential, and that these feelings of mine are simply my way of dealing with the stress of having to finally commit to one thing (I spent the majority of high school exploring different college and career options, albeit ones in STEM fields). I guess my question for you, Auntie, is do you think that this is something I should talk to my parents about seriously? Or could it just be a case of new school jitters that will go away once I start college?

First things first, Sparkler: Yes, what you’re feeling could certainly be temporary. But more importantly, what you’re feeling is natural.

Because if ever there were a time when it’s normal to have doubts about your future, it’s when you’re sitting in that awful limbo period between making a decision and living it. What you’re experiencing right now is the same anxiety that grips you when you’re sitting in a restaurant you’ve never been to before, waiting for your food to come out, wondering if you should have ordered the burger instead of the chicken—only on a massive scale, since this particular chicken is one you’ll be eating every day for the next four years. And when the only thing you know about the chicken is that you’ve chosen it—and that it’ll be very hard to un-choose it if you don’t like your choice—it only makes sense that you’re feeling unsure.

But that’s why the best thing you can do, right now, is to look forward to learning more—especially when you have every reason to be hopeful about it. I mean, it’s not like this is a choice you were pushed into despite serious reservations; you made an informed and reasonable decision to study something you like and are good at, and all you need to do now is get psyched about that. Seriously: every time you catch yourself wondering if you should have taken a different path, remind yourself that you haven’t even started down this one yet—and that when you do, it’s gonna be great. You’re about to be in a place where you can really flex your strongest mental muscles! Isn’t that exciting? Of course it is! So get excited, sweet pea. Psych yourself up. Think of all the things that were cool and appealing about this particular school, and let yourself look forward to them.

None of this is to say that your STEM school is definitely-for-sure the perfect place for you—and if it’s not, all the positive thinking in the world won’t be enough to hide that fact once you’re there. But if it is the right fit (and the odds are in your favor on that front), you’ll be that much happier that much sooner if you’ve set yourself up to have a good time. And since college is a big decision that’s harder than most to change once it’s made, giving it your best and most optimistic shot for one full semester will let you be that much more confident and thoughtful when it comes to your next step…whatever it might be.

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