Patience pays when picking major, paving way for future

So, here you are. You made it. You’re enrolled in college. Now what?

That’s the question I asked myself four years ago when I began my collegiate career as a sports management student at Medaille College. At the time, I had a very vague understanding of what pursuing that kind of degree would entail.

Worse, I had no foresight as to what type of careers could be made in sports management.

I guess sports have always intrigued me and getting a job involving them in some capacity was very attractive. I knew it could have led me to a job in a professional team’s front office or at a sports agency.

But I’m a realist, and quickly realized that without being fully invested in exploring my options in the field, those feats were too high for me to reach. Chasing them would have been like Charlie Brown attempting to kick a football held by Lucy.

I lasted one semester, which included an unpleasant accounting class, in the major before becoming a communications student. I was well on my way to figuring out what it was I wanted to do in college, and thus, for the rest of my life.

Deciding what to study in college should not be rushed, since it will almost always directly affect an individual for the next 40-plus years. I know I took my sweet, old time.

After that lost first semester, my second was just as befuddling. I took all kinds of general education courses to see what subject may peak my interest, even just a little bit. Nothing doing.

And that was all she wrote for my time at Medaille. What a waste. I have to hand it to Medaille, though. It siphoned a whole bunch of money from a young, naive college kid who thought his only option was to pay for an underwhelming education from a private institution that offered a unique program.

With my first forgettable year of college in the books, I transferred to Buffalo State for the 2010 fall semester — one of the best decisions of my life.

That first semester of my sophomore year I was technically still a communications student, but I might as well have been undecided. I was still searching for a major that appealed to me by taking more basic, lower-level classes. Economics, history, geography, English. Blah, blah, blah.

I was then required to set a deadline with my parents. I had to develop a plan and know what I was doing by the start of my junior year.

There is no shame in replicating the route I took in college, because it eventually does have a happy ending. Well, we will actually reserve that judgment for when I begin my job search, but for the moment, I’m enjoying myself.

Come spring semester of 2011, I was a late-add to COM 210, the basic journalism class offered at SUNY Buffalo State (also the course I was most smitten with). I had found my major: journalism.

Though my time as a student journalist didn’t really take off until I joined on with The Record a year after enrolling in that class, I had executed my plan to choose an area of study through process of elimination. It allowed me to enter a field I have no regrets joining and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else, because hey, I’ve tried it.

When finding a solution to such a substantial question, patience wins out. If you are enrolled in a major as a freshman or sophomore and feel pressure to endure with it, lose that sense. Little is accomplished in the first year of a program anyway.

Load up with a diverse selection of courses you think might interest you and see what else is out there. How often do students, right out of high school, know the exact degree they want? For the seemingly small amount that do, not all will receive it.

And don’t be fearful of changing majors numerous times.

Trial and error, I feel, is the principal method to prevent becoming invested in a degree that you are not completely sold on. In the process, it’s a practical method of initiating the shaping of one’s career path.

There is a field for every college student to be intrigued by — it’s just a matter of deciphering exactly what it is. Without taking the right classes, however, it can become an unknown.

Imagine how misplaced I’d be if I had decided to stick it out in sports management at Medaille for an extra year, and then come to decide it wasn’t for me. I would have seen my student debt ascend to unthinkable heights and my career prospects sink to extraordinary lows. I’d still be taking mandatory gen eds, this being my fifth year, and getting my feet wet in a major.

But I didn’t wait to explore my options, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with how it all played out.

Aaron Garland can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @AA_Garland.