How I navigated an academic dilemma


I had always been told that I don’t need to know exactly what I’m doing at university—

I can always change my major and I can always get a job with an arts degree of any kind. I have always been indecisive, but going to university and spending all this money on a degree made me nervous. I wanted to know what to do and I wanted to just get through it as fast as I could. 

During my first year, I was certain I wanted to major in creative writing after feeling so inspired and supported by my instructors. I knew it was a competitive major that only accepted a handful of people per year, but I was determined to keep trying until I got in.

That is until I was rejected going into my third year and I needed to declare a major before I could register for classes.

At that point, I declared my major in human geography, because it was the only major I was eligible to declare. I hadn’t made a real back-up plan in case things didn’t go as I planned, something to fall back on in case my persistence didn’t work. I figured I could just finish this human geography degree and graduate with an arts degree that was applicable anywhere in life. After all, writing and critical thinking skills are applicable in most fields. 

When I got to the home stretch of the first semester of my fourth year, I realized I couldn’t keep doing that. While human geography was extremely interesting and made me a better student and researcher, I couldn’t bring myself to register for another class in it. I was done with writing research papers about topics I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around, math was often required and it isn’t my strong suit, and every journal article I read felt more and more like blocks of unreadable text for ten or more pages. I was facing a dilemma—do I stay in a major I don’t like because I’m almost done, or do I start over with a new one I might like more and stay in university for many more years than I’d like?

After complaining to my friends for weeks about my major and wanting to change, I finally went to arts academic advising to see what my options were. They showed me how far along I was with my human geography degree, and what my options are within my own interests. I decided I’d major in English literature with a minor in creative writing, so I could still do what I wanted to do from the beginning with the added bonus of being able to read, analyze and explore tons of literature outside of my creative writing genres. I got the best of both worlds—reading and writing!

When I look back at my decision, I’m glad I made it. I would’ve been miserable if I continued to study human geography. It just wasn’t the major for me, it was hardly a back-up for my failed plan to major in creative writing in the first place. Now that I’m studying English literature, I feel like I’m on the right path. I’m probably never going to work in academia, but this is a program that develops my skills in reading comprehension, writing, critical thinking and analysis without making me feel overwhelmed. 

Without the help of advisors, friends, and family, I wouldn’t have had as easy a time as I had to navigate this dilemma. As well, as Miya Zhang wrote in a blog post for the Learning Commons in 2016, uncertainty can be a good thing because it makes you test the waters and try new things to figure out what you want to do. You don’t always have to know what you’re doing, and you can find strength and happiness in trying new things, making big changes and choosing to go down new paths. 

If you want to talk to an advisor about your own academic dilemmas, click here to find out how to get in contact with your advisor. You’re not alone in this, and they can help you navigate your way through changing your major, understanding your degree requirements, and much more!


Leave a Reply