McCaffrey: Make the most of your time in college

Molly McCaffrey

When I was in college, I went through six majors. 

Let me repeat that: in four short years, I went through six different majors and still managed to graduate on time (though I had dozens more credits than I needed). And these weren’t a bunch of majors that were somehow related. 

They were majors as diverse as economics and journalism, computer science and communications. Simply put, I was all over the map. 

And then, six years after college, I changed my “major” again, going back to graduate school to study a field I had never studied in college — creative writing. 

But here’s the thing—I believe those six majors I had in college helped make me better at what I do now. I believe that studying journalism ethics and Keynesian theory and programmable code made me a better writer.  

That’s why I feel so strongly that college students shouldn’t pick their major (or their courses, for that matter) based on what they think they should take — to get a job, to please their parents, or to send the message to the world that they are “normal.”

No, instead, I believe that college is, more than anything, an incredible gift of time — time to learn, time to grow, time to stand on your own two feet and most importantly time to figure out who you are. And you can’t figure out who you are if you are solely focused on getting X degree that leads to Y job. 

So for that reason I want to encourage all of you to make sure that you’re really getting all you can out of this precious gift of college. It is only one of many gifts you will receive in your life, but I want you to be sure you’re making the most of it.

Don’t listen to your parents. Don’t listen to your friends. Don’t even listen to your instructors. 

Listen to yourself.

Somewhere deep down inside you know what you want to do with your life. Or maybe, deep down inside, you know that you have no freaking idea what you want to do with your life. And that’s okay too. 

Whatever it is that your gut is telling you, that’s what you have to do. If your gut is telling you that you just have to use your hands to shape some clay, then go ahead and let yourself take a class in ceramics that has nothing to do with your major.

If your gut is telling you that you just have to learn more about Pavlovian conditioning, then go ahead and take a psychology class even if it’s in a different college than yours.

But don’t let the expectations of the world — or fears about getting a job — dictate your choices at one of the most important times of your life. I promise that in a few years no one is going to care if you took ceramics or psychology. They’re only going to care that you had the discipline and the wherewithal to finish your college degree. 

— Molly McCaffrey, Ph.D.