By Kira Archambault
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” At a young age, this question seems harmless to ask. For some college students, however, it can be a daunting question. If one is unsure what to pursue for a career or major, they aren’t alone. Despite the pressure of high school counselors, family, and society, it’s okay not to know the answer right away.
“An estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as undecided,” according to Virginia Gordon, author of “Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook.”
“If you don’t know right now, it’s going to be fine,” said Sarah Przystarz, an Academic and Career Advisor in the Advantage Program.
“People get this idea put in their head in high school that they have to know what they want to do in college. At age 17, 18, or 19, do you really know exactly what you want to do?” Przystarz said.
Przystarz originally went to school to become a guidance counselor. “I knew I wanted to do psychology,” said Przystarz. “Since psychology has such a broad range, I didn’t know the specifics of what I wanted to do with it.”
As an undecided student, it’s good to be aware of what types of resources to take advantage of.
Students can visit with a career advisor or their academic advisor, to gain knowledge and information to steer them in the right direction.
“Career advisors know about different tools that can be helpful for students who are undecided,” Przystarz said.
“It’s better to meet with a career advisor sooner rather than later,” said Alex Russo, a Career Development Counselor, and College and Career Navigator in the Stem Program.
Russo was originally interested in marketing. He, like many other students, started at 4Cs because he was unsure of what to major in.
It wasn’t until his junior year that Russo decided to shift into education. Russo decided he wanted to work directly with students.
“When I was very young, I wanted to be a film director,” said Russo.
Students should not be afraid to switch majors or occupation.
“Do not be ashamed of changing your mind about your major or career. As a human, this is going to happen.” Przystarz said. “You’re not always going to want what you did when you were younger.”
Career advisors can also help students explore options in depth.
Students can look into majors that will give them the most flexibility when choosing courses.
According to Przystarz, “A good place to start is with general studies because it gives a student free range.”
Courses can help students to identify an interest in a particular subject and possible field. Side hobbies and passions are also essential during this discovery process.
Russo asks many of his students the question, “What would you do if no one paid you to do it?”
Russo also spoke about how his friend’s passion helped him pursue the career he is in now. “He was a student who studied finance in college, but had a strong personal interest in the airline industry.”
Russo’s friend blogged about topics involved within his line of work.
“He was even able to snag a one-on-one interview with the CEO of Southwest Airlines while a sophomore in college.” Russo said. “He soon became the number one airline blogger in the world. Before he graduated from college, he had multiple full-time job offers from some of the top airline companies in the US.”
Throughout their journey, students should avoid comparing their progress to others.
“Everyone has their own paths,” Przystarz said. “It’s okay not to have the same goals as someone else.”
“If your friends are getting through college fast than you, it’s okay not to be where they are,” Russo said.
Russo discussed other opportunities for students happen by getting involved in clubs. The Cape Cod Young Professionals and STEM Club can help to connect with other students, learn more information about specific jobs, and speak with experts.
Students should not be discouraged while being undecided.
“Nothing happens the way you think or plan for it to be, and that’s okay,” said Przystarz.
Consistent and open communication with an advisor, early research, involvement in clubs and community, and exposure to real-life experience are the steps a student will need to find what they be when they grow up.
Photo Credit: Kira Archambault