I had always planned to take time off after high school to travel and work. I wanted to gain some life experience before deciding what I wanted to study for four years, I suppose because I subscribed to the “major = career” theory. The circumstances at the time didn’t let me do that, and here I am heading straight into university. While I’ve come to understand that your major certainly doesn’t have to equal your career, I still don’t know what I want to study or what kind of career I want to have. And I think taking time off would’ve helped me get a better idea of both of those things. So, if you can, I suggest taking some time off between high school and university.
If that’s not an option, you have to figure out some means of choosing courses (and yes, eventually, a major), that you find interesting and enjoyable and that hopefully lead you to an interesting career.
My method of choice, being an analytical, planner personality type (according to this impressively accurate personality test), has been to carefully consider what kind of lifestyle I want in the future and what kind of work I find rewarding and fulfilling, and to work backwards from there in terms of what kind of jobs offer those things and then what qualifications are needed to get those jobs. Kind of a painstaking process, but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with.
Despite this reasonably thorough investigation, I still don’t really know what I want. I have a lot of ideas, but there are pieces missing. So, today I went to a professor and businessman I know seeking advice. He leads a lifestyle I think I would enjoy, he works on interesting and important projects, he’s very opinionated, and I respect his judgment very much.
Instead of the careful analysis I expected from a distinguished academic, his advice was refreshingly different, with an understated wisdom that I suppose is often overlooked by us analytical types. Simply, he said, take courses you will enjoy. Take the courses with the most girls in them! It’ll be fun. An undergraduate degree should teach you how to think well and communicate well; the content is less important.
So now I throw these factors into the mix. Follow your interests, have fun, and try to choose courses (or at least sit in on lectures) with professors who have a reputation for the way they think and teach – not necessarily what they teach. Along with a little careful analysis of your own, I think that’s a pretty good balance.