Unnecessary fear of changing majors

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graphic by Fani Hsieh
graphic by Fani Hsieh

Fourth-grade Josh would have never envisioned that his future would be what it is now. If I’ve learned anything, it is that plans change.

I am the son of Asian immigrant parents who both majored in civil engineering. As expected, they were hard on me when it came to my grades and expected me to do really well in math.

I didn’t.

While they weren’t as strict as some parents, they still really wanted me to do well in academics and would always tell me that university education is priceless and the key to a happy life.

While their intentions were indeed noble and altruistic, in hindsight, this would have been the first red flag indicating that my parents didn’t really know what they were talking about.

They would throw arbitrary majors at me, like medicine or law or engineering, to try to steer me in that direction, while never explaining why.

I don’t blame them, though. Education is what got my father out of the slums of the Philippines and was the only one in his family to escape poverty.

Grade 11 was when I really thought about my choice of university major. It is also the year where your courses affect your future courses. In order to cover my bases and delay my choice, I took every STEM course that was offered. It was my worst year academically.

Anxiety started to catch up to me. My grades were crap and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I used computer science class time studying up on majors, preferably one with little math and high starting salary. That statement seemed like an oxymoron.

My first pick was communications. I was really good at talking and I thought that companies needed effective communicators.

I rolled with this for two months. To further my research, I bought a book on majors. It was written by the bluntest, meanest, and most insensitive author I have ever read. It changed my perspective on education.

When talking about communications, he gave, by far, the snarkiest and most condescending critique of the major.

He implied that to go to school for four years and be chained to debt for a degree in communications was a waste, because anyone could communicate effectively even without this kind of training.

This book changed my life and turned me into a cynic about education.

When OUAC applications came around, I picked marketing because it was a business degree and contained little math. I later experienced buyer’s remorse and decided to do finance instead.

An applicant background summary got me into Laurier’s economics program after not getting into business and administration. I was hell bent on getting a job in finance.

A guest speaker from PO102 inadvertently convinced me to change my major once again. The lecturer was Cambridge educated. I talked to him about careers and the Ivy League and he told me that people with English majors from these schools got finance job offers.

If that is the case, why bust my behind doing finance when I can major in whatever and get a job in finance? Though, I can’t see how an English degree provides any exposure to the world of finance.

This summer I decided to bite the bullet and do a STEM major, mostly for employment reasons.

If I were to choose a major in anything, it would be philosophy. But my fear has consumed me.

It is never too late to switch and switching isn’t a bad thing. Life is a learning experience and I might switch again. The battle between doing what you love and doing what is practical is always there, buzzing in the back of almost every student’s mind.

Hello. My name is Josh Hortaleza and I major in economics and computer science.


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