During a recent interview, a student asked me to identify one thing I wish I would have known as an incoming student. With the transition to college being a learning experience in and of itself, I grappled with the question for a moment, determined to offer the most meaningful advice I could. What’s one thing I wish I knew as a first-year? Every thought I had was rooted in my academic experience:
I came into college with the intention of pursuing the pre-med track. I spent my entire high school career convincing myself that medicine was my passion. My aspirations were centered around my desire to be a general physician; when I considered the trajectory of my future, I never questioned applying to medical school.
Within the first few weeks of college I realized that my plans for the future may not be as concrete as I had previously believed. I took a wealth of courses in the College of Arts & Sciences that familiarized me with areas of study I didn’t even know I was interested in. As an individual who values structure, I felt helpless when I realized that my heart wasn’t in the pre-med track. What was I supposed to do if what I always thought I wanted to do with my life wasn’t what I actually what I wanted to do? What was I supposed to do if I didn’t know what I wanted to do?
One thing I wish I would have known as an incoming student is that uncertainty is okay. One of the best things about the environment at WashU is the emphasis on academic flexibility. The opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration empower students to study across academic divisions, immersing themselves in coursework in any school within the university. You do not have to declare a major and/or minor until the second semester of your sophomore year, so there is ample time to explore different areas in an attempt to discern what you’re passionate about in the classroom. It is okay to be undecided. It is okay to not know what you want to do. In the midst of exploring your classes and extracurricular engagements, you will find what sparks your intellectual curiosity.
Uncertainty is okay, and exploration is encouraged. While it is not what I originally intended, the resources at WashU, in conjunction with the flexibility of a liberal arts education, have helped me to find my home in the realms of psychology and business.