Three questions that defined my New Student Orientation experience:
“What is your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“What is your major?”
My name is Grant. I’m from the suburbs of Philadelphia. I was a hot mess.
I applied to Penn as a BBB major, standing for Biological Basis of Behavior. It’s basically neuroscience. But in my Why Penn? essay, I phrased it as the perfect intersection between biology and psychology. It was also the major that had the most overlap with the pre-med track. And, at the time, I wanted to dedicate the next four years of my life in the hopes of entering medical school to eventually dedicate the rest of my life to giving others a chance of redeeming themselves through medicine. It also was one of the three majors that had a nice acronym.
I took nine AP classes in high school, most of them in STEM. After all, I had a plan; if I could place out of many of my pre-med classes, then I could focus more on taking higher level psychology courses. After all, I thought the next breakthrough in technology would be the integration between the cloud and the brain. On the side, I could take more STEM classes to further prepare myself for medical school admissions. Maybe I would sprinkle some research in here and there. I made this plan without taking a single college class in my life.
College rolled around. I registered for two chemistry courses, one psychology course, one economics course, and one writing course. The classes were significantly harder than the ones I took in high school but within my expectations of the difficulty that college courses entailed. I expected the onslaught of studying that followed the week before a midterm, but I didn’t quite expect the wave of self-discovered that followed the countless conversations I have had on the steps leading up to my dorm room in Provost Smith 201.
I remember during my college tours, one fact had been repeated through every school I had visited: the majority of undergraduates change their major within the first two years of study. At the time, I brushed off the thought along with the other canned facts and statistics that are cited during a college tour, such as:
Our students have great access to mental health care.
All of our clubs and organizations are inclusive.
Our students frequently go into the city.
When the semester finished, I decided my plan was a bad plan.
The next semester, I registered for an economics course, a philosophy course, a math course, an English course, and a political science course. I discovered I was bad at economics, but not as bad at math as I thought I had been. The following semester, I declared a major in Economics. I continued to take English classes because I enjoyed them, but I was determined not to register for too many classes given their limited application in the workplace. The semester after that, I tacked on an English major.
And that brings me to my final form, as of now. I study Economics and English. But, as a reflection of my personality, it merely indicates a couple of classes I have taken thus far. I am not interested in pursuing a career in investment banking or teaching. All of the classes I have taken thus far have had a tremendous impact in my personal development, but to me, that’s all they will ever be: classes. And that’s all a major is as well: a series of classes.