It might seem like picking a major is the single most important decision you will make in your entire life. That as soon as you get to college, a man in a big top hat with an even bigger clipboard will ask you what your major is, and no matter what you say, they’ll write that down and it’ll be your future. That you could accidentally end up majoring in “Uh, Sorry, What” with a minor in “Please Repeat the Question.”
I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to fear! I once saw a statistic that said most college students switch their major an average of three times. I’m not quite that much of an over-achiever, but I did switch my major twice and live to tell the tale. A tale I will tell right now.
As soon as I started my freshman year, I already had it in my head that I wanted to transfer to my college’s art school for acting. I took whichever acting classes I was able to take while I practiced my two monologues I would need for the audition to get into the program. I declared myself a Cinema Studies major in the meantime, maybe because it seemed similar enough, or maybe because I just wanted the chance to watch movies for class.
Eventually, my audition date came around, and I GOT IN.
And almost immediately realized I had made a mistake.
I had been so certain I wanted to transfer to the acting program that I hadn’t taken the time to talk to anyone else in it to find out if it would be a good fit for me. Right before I got accepted to the acting program, I’d learned about the television writing program, which seemed like it might have been a better match for me. But I’d thought oh well, already switched majors and defs can’t again. Guess I’m locked in for life.
When I first started trying to transfer into the acting program, they told me that it was a conservatory, which meant I would be spending three days a week, nine to six, in various acting classes with the other two days for my other classes. They asked if I would be okay with that. I said I would be. I was not.
I found the acting program totally draining. I got along well enough with other students, but I did not “click” with the teachers. There wasn’t much of what you would consider “acting” going on. In one class, we would try and tap into different “primal states” by rolling around on the ground. For another class, we had to try and recreate our bedrooms in the conservatory and pretend to sleep, and then another student would try to steal one of the objects we brought in without “waking” us.
You could probably determine my feelings towards those activities by the amount of scare quotes I used in that last paragraph.
The more the other students seemed to enjoy it, the more I realized it wasn’t for me. I hated my classes and I barely had any free time outside of them. I felt trapped, like I had made one wrong, rash decision, and now my life was ruined. I remember sitting outside, eating a bagel after class when I broke down and started crying. And then because I was crying, I started choking on the bagel. And then because I was crying and choking on the bagel, I started laughing because that seemed pretty funny.
I learned more about the television writing program and realized it was perfect for me. I would use a TV pilot script I had written to submit to the program, and if I didn’t get in, I would just transfer back into the Cinema Studies program.
Long story short, I got accepted into the television writing program and the rest of my academic experience was AMAZING. That is, until they messed up my credits and I had to spend my last semester bothering them until they fixed it so I could graduate. But that’s a story for a different personal essay!
I know now that even if I hadn’t gotten into the television writing program, things would have turned out alright. It’s easy to feel like choosing your major is the most important thing in the world, but unless it’s a specific major you need for grad school, there’s a LOT of other stuff you can do to help build up your resume for whatever career you intend to pursue. Study what you find engaging, and know that you can always switch it up.