“What’s your major?” A useful phrase in the toolbox of mundane small talk, and for many freshmen who aren’t pre-med or engineers (God bless their souls), the answer ranges from halfhearted speculation to a resolute, “Undecided.” Every now and then, though, the question becomes personal, and, at least for me, it sounds more like, “How could I possibly choose?”
When I was in second grade, I wanted to become a “scientist.” By seventh grade, my aspirations had seemingly condensed into the field of aerospace engineering. It was high school, however, that opened my eyes to the unimaginable breadth of possibilities and brought me to the realm of a resounding, “Undecided.” Last summer, in a stint of pre-college angst, feeling as if everybody else had their futures figured out, I searched for solace in Princeton’s departmental websites. Now, almost a year later, I’ve just relearned three lessons that have followed me through life: 1) things work out; 2) seize opportunities; and 3) take the road less traveled.
During my perusal of Princeton’s departments, I arrived at the link for the Department of Geosciences. “Hmm,” I thought to myself: “Rocks.” I clicked anyway, figuring I should keep an open mind. An hour later, and after reading the department’s 24-page information pamphlet, I knew that geosciences was about much more than rocks, and that in fact the department resonated with my passion for understanding the complexity of the Earth. Moreover, I knew I was definitely going to take a geosciences course in the fall. Things work out.
After orientation and during class registration, I signed up for GEO 202, an introductory course. The day before classes started, however, my advisor sent me an email: a freshman seminar, FRS 187 now had an open slot. One of the professors was her husband, Adam Maloof, a professor in geosciences, and she thought the class might be better suited for me than GEO 202. Oh yeah, and the class went to Cyprus for fall break. Seize opportunities.
FRS 187 was by far the most difficult class of fall semester, but it was by far the most rewarding and probably also the best class I’ve ever taken, period. Because of it, I’m now enrolled in GEO 370 (Sedimentology), further exploring the Department of Geosciences, and my spring break plans include a “mandatory” trip to the Bahamas. Not so many undergraduates are in the department (21 as of right now), but maybe I’ll factor into that number one day: take the road less traveled.
All this to say: If you’re at the end of your high school “career” and you feel the pressure to know your major by the end of this summer, don’t worry. According to many sources, about 70% of undergraduates here change their major at least once. Following adventure and the things that make you happy is the best formula for "planning your future"; your major will follow you.