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By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

Choosing a Major - avoid the ?shoulda, woulda, coulda?

Uploaded: Jun 1, 2014

This blog entry was written by Lori and is her first post!

I recently reconnected with a former student who graduated from a UC this year. A few short months before her graduation, she told me she came to the realization that her major did not align with her career aspirations. During high school, she was told to major in Business because it was something that would guarantee a career path after graduation. And being a first-generation student, a stable job after college sounded appealing. As she began to wrap up those few remaining courses she put off as long as she could (namely anything requiring math), she admitted to me that she had zero interest in Business. Z-E-R-O. We're talking, she would have rather dropped the major and start all over than finish the degree. And if it were not for the facts that she had a generous financial aid package that only covered her four-year college education and that her entire family was counting on her to be the first to earn a college degree, she halfheartedly graduated with a Business degree.

Her true calling is working with animals, primarily animal conservation. She loves them and has volunteered at many of the local animal shelters and education centers in her college community. She even confessed that picking up animal dung was not that bad. Clearly, this is true love!

So what does she do now? This is a classic case of "shoulda, woulda, coulda".

What she should have done was to have listened to her gut when she started taking courses in her major and realized this was not the right fit. It may feel unnatural to take a leap of faith and go against everything you have been told, but in the end, you are the person who has to hold down that job and work in that industry. You need to find a career path you are interested in, then research majors that support your career path. Working in a career you loathe can be detrimental to your sanity.

She should have then reached out to her University's Career Center and met with a counselor to discuss career path options and academic programs in her area of interest, Animal Biology. Transferring into a different major might have set her back a semester or two or, if she was lucky, a couple of intense summer semesters taking new prerequisites, but at least she would then graduate in the better suited major.

And lastly, she could have reached out to a trusted mentor for advice. Sometimes bouncing ideas off of someone who has already gone through the college process provides valuable insight and inspiration. For example, learning how to self-advocate and asking the right questions to the right people. Or, never giving up on your dream just because the risk seems high. On those darkest days when you don't feel like believing in yourself, call your favorite pep talker. He or she will lift your spirits and keep you motivated.

The good news is this recent graduate is incredibly resilient and won't let her Business degree stop her from pursuing her true calling. During her final months at her UC, she researched graduate programs that offer majors in Animal Biology and is planning on taking prerequisite coursework at a local community college while studying for the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations). She also plans on volunteering with programs related to animal conservation to gain even more hands-on experience.

Naturally, there is a sense of frustration knowing she should have changed her major two years ago, but she is taking action now and although it will set her back a few years, ultimately she will end up working with animals and enjoying the career path she has paved.

One peer-to-peer piece of advice she offers to students entering college is to choose your major wisely and early. I agree!