How To: Overcome midcollege crises

Joon Lee/WSN
Joon Lee/WSN

Take a walk around Bobst Library on most nights and you may see at least one strained student fighting back tears. The pressure of schoolwork, internships and extracurriculars is difficult enough when it is gratifying. When it isn’t, it can be suffocating. If you find yourself surrounded by empty cups of black coffees, waist-deep in work, asking yourself, “Why am I even doing this?” it might be time for a change.

I don’t think a single one of my friends is going to end up graduating with the same degree and life plan he or she had in mind when he or she started college. More than one pre-med biology major freshman has transformed into a senior finishing his or her English degree, and vice versa. Changing your mind about your major even five times in one year isn’t unheard of, a claim to which I personally can attest. As impossible as it may seem at first, rerouting your college and career plans can be a liberating experience.

Sometimes friends and family know you better than you know yourself. Always try talking through your concerns with the people you trust and who care about you. Your loved ones, naturally, want the best for you and can provide an incredible source of strength when you’re feeling lost and unsure of yourself. Steer clear of naysayers, however — there’s a difference between giving difficult but helpful advice and being negative and closed-minded. Often, those who are trying to be supportive only end up advising against a major life change because of preconceived notions they hold, either of you or of your career choices. This process can result in obstacles that only add to the stress of your midcollege crisis. Parents are notoriously guilty of this. The best you can do is explain the weight this alteration will lift off your shoulders — and gently remind them that you’re an adult now, making your own adult decisions.

Once you’re more or less convinced you need to go through with change, logistics become the next step. If what you’re considering is a change of major, talk to your advisor or someone in the department you hope to join to see if it’s academically possible to still graduate on time. The earlier you are in your academic career, the easier a switch will be. If it’s looking unlikely, and staying an extra semester or two is not a financial possibility for you, consider making a smaller change, like picking up a minor. However, some changes of career don’t even require a different degree. If you have skills and a willingness to learn, nearly any type of career is within reach. Consider dropping by the Wasserman Center for Career Development for help with restructuring your resume and looking for internship opportunities. Ultimately, only certain fields require a specific degree and most can be broken into with proper experience. College can be a testament to your ability to work hard, utilize skills and accomplish something. Your major can only count for so much.

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The truth is that no matter what common wisdom tells you, any career you could possibly choose will have its own collection of ups and downs, and hard work is inevitable. If you’re not devoting all those hours pouring over books, job applications and eventually the trials of post-college life for something you care deeply about, you simply won’t be satisfied. College is the time to take risks — if it feels like something’s missing, now is the time to take a deep breath, be fearless and make a change.

— Ariana DiValentino

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