Monday, July 10, 2017

Why I Changed My Major

Hello, beautiful! As you might be able to tell from the title of this post (and the subtle change in my About page, too!), this is an emotional post about why I decided to leave my Journalism major behind and pursue a Communications Studies major instead.

This is a difficult post to write, because I used to think I had my whole life figured out. In reality, it's natural to change your mind when you're in college - but I just didn't think that was me. I used to criticize the students who changed their majors three or four times, or the students in the general studies program who just couldn't pick a direction - then, I had a couple of experiences my freshman year of college that really shaped who I was and how I related to my former major, and I began to relate to that lost feeling of just not knowing what you want to do with your life.

Disclaimer: I'm still a dual degree student, so I've technically only changed one of my majors. Political Science has been my one constant from when I was applying to colleges as a senior in high school, to the point when I decided to change my major just a few short weeks ago. However, when I had the realization that once I actually applied for the Dual Degree program and solidified my two majors, I wouldn't have the flexibility to change my program anymore, I decided to make a change - something I'll talk about more when I really dive into the reasons why I changed my major to Comm. Studies.

Obviously, changing majors is a difficult decision that involves a lot of complicated factors, ranging from class credits to salaries to internships and more. I'm assuming that if you're here, you're either curious about my personal experiences or thinking about changing your major yourself. Yet even if you do choose to change your major, your reasons might not look exactly like mine. You might be in a different program with different requirements, or facing different realities when it comes to your career choice.

Either way, this post is all about the complicated reasons why I chose to change my major, and some of the most important factors you might keep in mind as you look toward changing yours. So, without further ado, let's talk about why I changed my college major.

I didn't see myself working in journalism long-term.

Even as my entire life revolved around journalism, between classes and being an editor on the school paper, I always saw myself working in a communications role for an elected official and ultimately becoming a legislative aide. I always told people "Oh, I want to study Journalism and get to take more writing classes" - but when it came down to career goals, I never saw myself actually working as a journalist. That truth ultimately became my first clue that there might be a better career path for me out there - a career path other than my Journalism major. 

I had serious problems with the job description.

As you may already know, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder - and a big trigger for me is talking to new people, whether in person or on the phone. Unfortunately, a huge part of journalism is approaching people on the street for quotes and calling people up for interviews, which didn't exactly jive well with my social anxiety. So, a big hint for me that I just wasn't cut out for journalism was that I didn't love every part of the job description. 

I didn't fit in with the other students in my major.

I don't mean this in a superficial way - if you think you should change your major because you simply don't look like the other people in your major, then you probably have deeper problems on your hands - but in the sense that everyone else I knew seemed to love Journalism so much more than me. When it came to getting quotes at night or keeping up with hectic deadlines, I always used to look at the people around me and wondered why I was so much more stressed than they were. And, even more than that, everyone else was so much more driven to be competitive in the field of journalism than I was. 

Looking back, I can see that it all comes down to one simple reason: I just didn't love it as much as they did, and that's okay! I see now that journalism is the right path for them, and it doesn't make me any less of a communications pro that I wasn't cut out for the journalism life. Everyone has their different dreams, goals and talents, so if you're getting hung up comparing yourself to others, that might be a sign you need to look deeper as to why you're pursuing your chosen field. 

I could get everything I wanted (and more!) in a different program.

When it came down to seriously thinking about changing my major, the first thing I did was check out the course descriptions and requirements for the Communications Studies track. As soon as I did, I realized I was worrying way too much about missing out on real writing, when the Comm. Studies courses were all about just that! If anything, I felt like I was going to get more writing out of the Communications Studies major than out of Journalism, where there's so much focus on photography and multimedia these days. So, one reason why I'm ultimately so happy with this choice is because I discovered that what I was looking for had been in a different major all along. If you're still happy with the program you're in, but just don't like the people you've met or the courses you're taking, then your major probably isn't the problem. Instead, look at changing your course schedule, dropping or adding a class or even transferring to another college!

The course descriptions interested me more.

This reason is simple and straightforward: I actually got excited about registering for Comm. Studies classes, when some of the Journalism requirements had left me dreading my fall schedule. As soon as I saw the course title Political Campaigning hidden among my options, I knew the Communications Studies major was the right program for me. And, honestly, I'm not at all disappointed that I'm leaving Visual Journalism entire class about photography and layouts, when I can barely take my own blog photos without cringing? No thanks!

Comm. Studies would better prepare me for my career.

As I mentioned before, I never actually intended to have a career in Journalism - or when I did think about it, it was always a temporary step to hold me over until I got to my end goal, which was always working in Congress as a legislative aide. However, the more I thought about it, the less Journalism made sense as a major given that end goal. Once I started my internship at the State House and began to see what the people I admire most did for a career, I realized the skills they used every day aligned more with the Comm. Studies track than the Journalism one. So, I ultimately wound up switching gears - well, majors! - into Comm. Studies to better prepare me for what I wanted to do with my life in the long-term, rather than in the short-term.

Most importantly, I followed my gut!

When I graduated from high school and applied to Boston University, I initially applied as a Communications Studies major with the intention of adding a Political Science degree later on - meaning that technically, my Journalism degree was my first major switch of my college career. Now that I'm switching back into Comm. Studies, it's so funny to think that if I had stuck with my gut and stayed in my chosen field as a high school graduate, I would have avoided all of the difficulty of changing majors. So, to me, the story of changing my major feels like the ultimate lesson in why you should always trust your instincts!

Have you ever changed your major? Tell me about it @haleymarieblog or in the comments below!

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