Why Your College Major Means Nothing In The Real World

by Lauren Martin

Life is about choices. Life is also about coincidences, fate and being in the right place at the right time. You may have the most detailed map of where you will be in five years -- and I can guarantee you with the utmost certainty, you will not be there.

And if you are there, then you are probably not really living. Life isn’t about planned tactics and strict paths, it’s about following your gut and taking opportunities that scare the hell out of you.

Around the age of 17, one of the seemingly biggest decisions you will make in your young adult life will be choosing a major. It's the first real decision that you are making semi-independently that you believe will have a major impact on the course of your life.

Many colleges will make you preemptively decide on one before stepping foot on campus, while others will give you a semester or two to figure it out. There will be an inevitable discussion with your parents, whether conscious of it or not, of what major they would like you to take... because they are older and wiser, and they know about life.

Many of you may choose a major based on some thoughtfully crafted plan to swindle your way into the college of your choice, while some of you make decisions based on an ideal notion your parents have for your future. Hell, a few of you may just choose what you think will be the easiest to pass. Whatever your motives, I am telling you right now that it doesn’t matter, because everything is going to change.

Now that I’m older (and wiser?) I find myself scoffing at my adolescent plans and notions to follow a map to my ideal future. I laugh, while also lamenting, about the days, weeks and years I spent worrying over the insignificant decisions I was making that I thought were such a big deal. I kick myself when I think about all the time I was wasting, thinking about the wrong things.

"Life is always uncertain. We cannot let the fear of what might happen stop us living as we choose."- Susanna Kearsley

Believe it or not, unless you’re studying to be a doctor or a lawyer, or on any path that requires years of dedication and degrees, there’s no absolute, set path. Too many kids go into college with some notion that they must follow exactly what their chosen major stipulates and they cannot deviate in any other direction. This attitude toward college and life will cause you great stress and wasted energy worrying about something that doesn't matter in the grander scheme of life.

I got my job by chance, by being in the right place at the right time. I had previously given up on the path dictated by my useless major and was following my gut. I stumbled into jobs that were somewhat on the path to my new aspirations and ended up where I needed to be. And I'm telling you, from personal experience, that it's not your degree that will get you there, but how badly you want it.

My favorite token of wisdom gathered from my mother was: “Sh*t happens and things change." This is a motto to live by. Once out of college, it’s a crapshoot and you are most likely going to end up far away from your tentative plans made at 18. Knowing this, there should be no stopping you from following your dreams. You are too young to be settling into a role because you chose it four years ago. You aren’t locked in, there are no rules that say you can’t deviate. Having been in the “real world” about a year now, I’ve picked up one solid fact: your major doesn’t define you.

If you graduated with a degree in something you no longer have any interest in, so what? There's no one telling you that you can't try something else. You can try again. You don't need to go all the way back to school, just take a few classes offered at a community college or through outside enrollment, and start learning about the things you want to study. Don't let some societal stigma keep you from doing what you really love, because it's never too late.

So as an ode to those seniors in college, I am telling you to stick to what you’re doing and get your degree, then figure the rest out. Don’t waste the time trying to change your major now, it’s just a waste of money. To those newcomers to college, think about what you want and pursue that dream as early and soon as possible. To those graduated and long gone, stop letting your major define you.

Life Is Random

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Life is a crapshoot. To plan where you are going to be in five years is preemptive and immature. If you really want to value life and learn to live in the moment, then give up on planning and follow your heart. Life will be way more fun and definitely more exciting. So stop worrying about your mistakes and wrong choices, and start planning for the future you want.

You Will Eventually Follow Your Passion

You know what a mid-life crisis is? For those of you who haven’t experienced one for yourself or haven't been around someone who is experiencing one, it’s a time in people's lives when they realizes they aren’t happy, and they need a change. It’s a moment of clarity when you see that you are following the wrong passions, the wrong dream.

Some men go out and buy Harleys, others quit their jobs. It’s a time of chaos and uprooting. It’s what will happen to you if you do not follow your passions right now. Because it will come back to haunt you, and you will have to start all over again, only this time you’ll be 45 and have a boatload more responsibilities and hurdles. So do your 45-year-old self a favor, and just do it now.

People Don’t Care

People really don’t care if you majored in something else. If you have skills that are transferable to the job you are trying to secure, that’s enough. They want to know who you are as a person and as a worker more than anything else. Where you got your training doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you are capable and creative.