By: Alley LoPrete
One of the most daunting parts of choosing a college for me was wondering if I would make the right choice. How do I know my school is the right one? It brought me back to middle school dreams of my future husband and asking my mom “How do you know he is the ONE?” So, I chose a school where I could find lots of options; Hope College. Perfect! I found a liberal arts school where I can take classes in multiple areas to fit all my interests. It wasn’t a cop-out. Rather, I felt that Hope College would help me stay well rounded and flexible so that I could do all the things I love for four more years.
As a result, my schedule freshman year was a melting pot for my mind: Basic Painting: yes I love to be creative! Encounter with Cultures: awesome, I love learning people’s stories!, Communication: nice, this is an important skill. Then, the most terrifying email came into my inbox from my advisor. The subject line: DECLARE A MAJOR! A major, as in one subject, one degree, one department. Here I was faced with another choice and I was again too overwhelmed with ideas to make it. My biggest fear was that I would choose a career path that I would tire of, or that my degree would limit me later in life. I also felt that I needed to choose a major that would follow God’s calling for me. Thus, I was forced to turn inward and reflect on what I knew about myself.
This reflection was a large part of my First Year Seminar at Hope and through the class and the Career Development Center I took a StrengthsQuest test. This test is aimed at finding your top strengths through a series of self-reflection questions. Everyone passes this test and ends up with your top five strengths! Mine are: Includer, Adaptability, Connectedness, Empathy, Achiever. These traits pointed to a career in relationship building, so I signed up for a sociology class the next semester. Turns out, I love the social sciences and particularly the study of communities.
I also met with a religion professor after taking a religion course freshman year. I learned about all the careers that one can have in studying humanities and realized how options grow based upon your passions. I also read a book called Acts of Faith in my First Year Seminar class and I learned how much religion effects the world and how the social justice elements of my faith could be used for a greater good. I soon realized that my passions for serving others could be built into what I study at school. I can work for a nonprofit, serve, and still make a living.
In the end, I changed my major at least three times and ended up with not one, but two majors: Sociology and Religion. Through mentors, resources and experiences in the classroom my interests were channeled into potential jobs and the majors to go with. I am now looking forward to attending Seminary or Graduate school and working as a chaplain or for a nonprofit in the future. Even within my majors, I do not feel limited as I feared. In attending a liberal arts school, I can still go in and out of departments and continue learning! But, I do know now that my future is bright and I have a direction for my studies and a plethora of job options in the future.
Here are some points of advice that I will leave you with:
- Reflect on your life experiences and what brings you joy: these often help you determine what you want to pursue doing in the future, because you loved them in the past.
- Use your resources: family, friends, mentors, career centers and advisors, Strengths Quest and more can help you make good choices and consider more options that you may know about now.
- Step out of comfort zone: your major may not be the most practical initially, but in talking to professors and doing research you may find more career possibilities.
- Mix it up: Try out different classes, go to lectures outside your major. You may run into a topic you didn’t know you had a passion for and may end up with a minor!
- Think of others: Everyone is given skills that are unique, think about how you will not only be helping yourself in choosing a major, but also keep in mind how what you’re studying can help others as well.