Asking an 18-year-old what they want to do for the rest of their life puts a lot of pressure on an undeveloped brain. Over the course of four or more years, dreams change, new goals surface and students discover new things about themselves. As graduation approaches for many, the students who have switched paths look forward to crossing the stage with not only a diploma, but a genuine excitement for the futures they spent so much time exploring and working towards.
Academic adviser Linda Williams believes there is no wrong path for a student to take to figure out their future — whether they start as a freshman or later.
“You don’t want to get stuck in something that you really don’t like,” Williams says. “[College is] a discovery of who you want to be, and it’s probably better to do that now [rather than] graduate in a degree you don’t want to work in.”
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports around 80 percent of students change their majors during their time in college. Webster seniors Richard Nava, Kalani Seaver and Lauren Rhodes make up a fraction of that number. They thought they knew what they wanted freshman year, but it did not take long for them to do some inevitable soul searching.
For Nava, he planned to pursue a degree in acting. However, his first semester hit him with a harsh reality that made him question that plan, and it all started with a book he read in Acting I. The author wrote, “If you can imagine yourself doing something else other than acting, you should probably go do it.”
That quote stuck with Nava as he began exploring another interest — video game design. What he originally considered to be more than an avid hobby, soon blossomed into a career opportunity with real potential. After seeing a Webster newsletter offering game design as a major, Nava’s interest was piqued. He pulled from his research on what life as a game developer was like and realized Webster had crafted a legitimate curriculum for the program. It was time to do some serious thinking.
“I had zero experience in game development,” Nava says. “It was the first year [the major was offered], so no one was enrolled. It was very risky because I knew going into it that I would be the guinea pig class if I did [decide to switch].”
When it comes to Rhodes switching majors, there were a lot of circumstances affecting her decision. She originally wanted to major in computer science — her interest came from her mother who works in the field. She felt it was a good call; however, she was not overly fond of her first few classes involving a lot of programming. It was around her sophomore year that she discovered she wanted to make a switch.
“I was really depressed and the classes weren’t helping,” Rhodes says. “They just kind of made it worse.”
Rhodes reached her breaking point after replaying the adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” She said she was simply not doing what she loved. At the time, she was taking an English class she loved. Rhodes was planning on minoring in English but the class made her officially decide to make it her major, and she would minor in computer science.
“I do love English,” Rhodes says. “So now, I can just continue doing what I love and it’s not a burden anymore.”
Williams often sees students getting a second major or a minor so they have something to fall back on in case their major does not turn out. She says a critical part of being at a liberal arts college is to expand your mind, and that is what the Global Citizenship Program (GCP) courses do.
“[GCP courses] might not change their major, but it might change what they do in the future,” Williams says.
Originally, Seaver intended to do either directing or editing. At the time, they were excited about doing something artistic and creative that allowed them to have a voice. They joined the program and never quite felt secure in the choice, as many other people in it were so well-versed compared to Seaver.
According to Seaver, their scripts never received positive feedback from their classmates. Second semester of their freshman year, Seaver dropped the film production major after realizing they were not passionate enough to continue the degree.
Williams usually recommends students to take a course in the major that they are thinking about switching to before they switch because it may not be what they expect.
Seaver had a career revelation when they found themself being drawn to social movements. They decided to make the jump into sociology after taking a Sex and Gender class with College of Arts and Sciences professor Andrea Miller their sophomore year.
“I talked to [Miller] about one of the topics we were discussing in class and she said that I had a knack for sociological analysis, so I got more interested,” Seaver says.
Seaver continued taking more sociology classes and learned more about it as an area of study. There were days they would be in a class and would get more and more angry about what they were learning, and would often come home very depressed and anxious. Even through those emotions, Seaver wanted to learn more and develop solutions to the issues the class discussed. It was this realization that moved Seaver to solidify their decision to make sociology their major. They felt it would not only make them a better person, but lead them to being satisfied with what they did later on in their life.
The duration of time at school depends on when students changes their major. While the three students experienced change at different times, it ended up working out for them. Their graduation dates did not extend past May 2017, but it took a lot of work to make sure that one variable was unaffected.
The other thing Nava, Seaver and Rhodes have in common is a lot of support. Williams says the support should come from the family and your academic advisor.
“[Advisors] try to just educate students as far as the requirements in what they have to do to get the major, and just really support them,” she says.
Seaver says their friends were encouraging of the choice to switch majors and that made Seaver feel good about the choice. They said their parents were concerned about the sociology job market and asked how Seaver could find a job and make good money.
Seaver did their research on sociology and if it would be a solid career path, and found that while sociologists do not make the most money, they can funnel into other majors, graduates and PhD programs that end up making more money down the line.
“For me, it’s not always about money,” Seaver says. “It’s a factor that prioritizes what job I might aim for, but it won’t ever be the sole reason [for a job]. Sociology helps me fulfill this purpose that I enjoy having.”
Story by Livie Hall & Melissa Buelt
Photos by Crystal French