At the age of 24, I just completed my first year of undergraduate studies at a good public university. I am a strong student with a 4.0 GPA, but I feel that my interests are so broad and varied that I don't know how to narrow down on a specific path of study. Compound these problems with the ubiquitous financial and career concerns of the modern college student, and you have one confused student. How can I resolve this inner turmoil and structure a long-term plan that will bring me (at least some) peace of mind?
posted by fignewton to Education (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I know this sort of a question is a dime a dozen, but any response is genuinely appreciated.
In an effort at brevity, let me concisely round out my background information: It has been a whirlwind of a year. College didn't work out for me after high school, and for years I pined for an opportunity at higher education. Now that I'm finally getting such an education, I feel overwhelmed with the decisions I need to make and the speed with which I need to make them. My original goal of studying social work and foreign languages quickly fizzled out once I learned the extensive education required for the social work field as well its measly financial return. If I had gone to college straight out of high school, I probably would have studied English or something similar. (It's taken so long to get into college due to family and financial reasons.) I have since veered towards philosophy, and I love it! I feel at home in the department and with the fellow students, and I thrive in the courses. However, I can't shake this grim adumbration of graduating with minimal earning prospects.
So I've considered picking up a second major, something more tangibly skill-oriented, e.g. computer science, mathematics, or economics. I'm particularly considering computer science or mathematics due to the love I had for a course in formal logic I recently took with the philosophy department. Alas, it's been years since I've done any post-algebraic math, so I would be getting a late start to the game. Hence such a decision would almost certainly result in an additional semester or two (four more years instead of three), not to mention the additional debt I would incur. (If I graduate within the next three years, I'll probably have around $20-30k in debt, maybe less depending on future scholarship opportunities.) Furthermore, although I'm a bright student and feel confident I could learn anything towards which I applied myself, the frank truth of the matter is that mathematics is not my natural strength. I have always had an intense love-hate relationship with it. However, as mentioned earlier, formal logic has opened my eyes to new understanding of the subject.
Truthfully, I want to study everything! In my spare time I read tons of psychology/psychiatry (viz., Jung, Maslow, Grof, etc.). I'm passionately interested in self-growth and social justice. I've gone through the entire list of majors offered by my university (multiple times), and it seems as if my mind changes month-to-month, week-to-week, and even day-to-day. One thing I do know for certain is that I'm unwilling to give up my philosophy major. It nurtures my soul, spirit, and mind, and it's the one field of study I feel totally comfortable in. That being said, I am also pretty certain that I do not want to pursue academia as a career choice.
My biggest fear is graduating at the age of 27 straddled with $25k in debt and unable to find a job. More specifically, I feel terrified I'll never be able to pursue all the things my soul craves: writing, music, art, languages, films, culture, all the myriad hobbies I pick up, et cetera. Maybe I'm overthinking this whole thing (I probably am), but I feel as though a whole lifetime's worth of ramifications sits heavily upon the decisions I'm making now. Needless to say, I feel pressured to make the right decisions.
So my questions are as follows:
1) Can someone with a liberal arts degree still enjoy prosperous careers?
2) Are double-majors ever good ideas? What would be the best major to pair with one such as philosophy, especially for a student who is not necessarily interested in graduate-level studies?
3) Perhaps most importantly, how can I begin to stop worrying so much about the future and instead enjoy this educational experience that is college?
So much for brevity. Again, I humbly thank anyone and everyone for reading and replying. I'm looking for opinions all over the spectrum. Tell me how it is.