Major considerations: one discipline, two paths

Feilisha Kutilike and Persia Salehi/Staff

Wait before you commit to a major.

“There seems to be a common misconception that there are certain jobs connected with each major,” said College of Letters and Science adviser Jane Paris regarding the college’s liberal-arts disciplines.

With thousands of careers to choose from, students seem to look for majors with clearly defined paths that lead to the careers of their dreams. But as Paris said, “There is no single path.”

The College of Letters and Science has more abstract and theoretical majors than other colleges like Engineering and Natural Resources. Though there are fewer majors to choose from, there is less of a need to research career opportunities.

In spite of this reassuring direction, choosing a major does not have to rest on practicality alone.

Paris suggests that while liberal arts majors do not entail a single career path, they entail two tracks that focus on academics and careers. Academic counselors may oversee academic progress, but it is the students’ responsibility to make informed decisions about where exactly their progress is leading them.

Junior Namita Dhawan switched from declaring business to molecular & cell biology, after participating in a summer marketing internship. “The internship, combined with my interaction with other business students, helped me realize that business was not for me,” said Dhawan. And after her dog died of cancer, Dhawan plans to enter the veterinary field with an MCB degree.

Paris emphasizes the importance of being proactive in connecting your major to potential careers that might not be as obvious as being a doctor or a lawyer. “So many students want to change the world, and you can find a way by pursuing your interests outside the classroom,” she said.

Senior Shane Mason started out as a philosophy student who is now pursuing two degrees — one in Business Administration and another in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a focus in the political economy of natural resources. In addition to doing a summer internship in “green” real estate development, Mason pursued both majors in order to have a more balanced education that would develop his critical thinking skills on sustainable development.

Though many students enter Cal passionately determined to pursue particular majors, Paris encourages students to keep an open mind. When students ask her about mapping out the likes of pre-med or pre-law, she asks them about their interests. Students should “stop and assess” how they are engaged in the classes of their intended major. If you find yourself daydreaming in your Pre-Med 101 DeCal, take it as a sign to get lost in something else.

Though she declared art history during her second year, junior Beth Soroko also took various “discovery courses” to keep an open mind as a freshman. But since her interests in art history extend to that of English, public policy, political science and African-American Studies, Soroko has since created her own major in the interdisciplinary studies field department — social change in the arts.  “One discipline is never absolute,” said Soroko.

Choosing your major shouldn’t be as daunting as planning the rest of your life. Now is the time to start engaging and exploring to find a place in “the real world,”  and make your life mean more than just a college degree.

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