So…what is my major?

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Graphic Illustration by Sharlene Chen

Sometimes, you just want to feel understood and normal.

Sharlene Chen

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

“An artist!” 

Throughout elementary school, that was my instinctive response. I knew I liked the freedom offered by a blank canvas and the satisfaction of producing something beautiful with my own hands, and that was enough. But as I learned about mortgages, taxes, insurance and those other adulting terms that were previously shrouded from my adolescent eyes, the impracticality of an art career relegated my artistic dreams to a hobby. Every artist sitting on the sides of carnivals served as reminders of the starving artist trope, and my family incessantly pointed them out to me.  

My aspiring artist dreams dashed, I found myself in a state of confusion. Entering high school, I witnessed innumerable friends and classmates intently and eagerly pursuing careers in computer science or medicine or law, every move consciously calculated and deliberate. As for me, my future was a gauzy white apparition that fluttered and skittered out of reach. On a whim, I joined a business club and surprisingly excelled. Since I was successful, I decided I liked it. 

Thus, when college applications came around, I applied to all my schools as a business or economics major. On top of that, most people advised me to choose a major to increase my chances of admission. With every supplemental essay, I persuaded myself wholeheartedly that I wanted to do this, that I loved this, that I wanted to spend every minute of the rest of my life doing this (yes, you have to be dramatic and sincere on applications). All those days (mainly winter break) churning out essays wiped doubt from my mind. I tumbled head-over-heels in love with schools such as UPenn, with its renowned undergraduate business program at Wharton. 

Then college admissions results came out. I was rejected from UPenn and many of my favorite schools. I cried. My world spun. My logical brain immediately told me to completely reevaluate my future. It scared me, being this uncertain, unknown, unpredictable. My dreams, now business instead of art, disintegrated again. 

Of course, I allowed myself to grieve for a moment over those potential but now demolished homes in the realm of my imagination. But, determined to make the best choice, I implored and reached out to my family, friends and Lynbrook alumni about my remaining options. These conversations shifted my paradigm and opened my eyes to the perspectives of those who had also gone through a similar process and reflected retrospectively. To my surprise, the majority of the current college students I knew had changed majors at least once, if not twice and even three times. Even though I had read plenty of websites corroborating these statistics, it was vastly different hearing it from people I could personally relate to and who grew up in a similar environment. 

Sometimes, you just want to feel understood and normal. The dizzying panic I felt from rejection and uncertainty eased significantly and I could breathe again. Oftentimes, we feel we are the only ones going through something, the only ones with a specific experience, but there’s always someone else and we are not alone. 

Key reflective questions arose. I had been admitted to NYU Stern, a business program nearly as distinguished as Wharton’s, but I did not want to go. So did I really want to go to a good business school or did I just care about prestige? Did I actually enjoy business or did I just like the leadership position I gained through the business club? Eventually, these evolved into: do I really even want to study business or economics?

Honestly, I still puzzle through these questions and I cannot give a straight answer. As I’m about to enter college, I will probably not end up being an art or business major, but that is okay. My path has been full of forks — it may twist and turn even more — but this is all normal. These next few years are meant for exploration, growth and adaptation, and I’m beyond excited to begin this new chapter of my life.