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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Do not let your major define you or your future

Journalism is for the kids who were reprimanded for talking too much in class. It’s also for the quiet students who only talked when called upon by the teacher — or so I thought.

As students, we feel as if that is our main identity: to be students, and with that comes our major. Although majors do reflect some insight into what someone values, they do not define a person. The human essence is complicated and multifaceted. A one-to-three-word major can’t possibly define a person.

When I first came to UF, I thought that everyone’s major was a direct reflection of his or her personality. In my mind, business majors were carbon copies of Jordan Belfort. Biology majors were the next Jane Goodall. Journalism students were akin to Nancy Drew. Of course, I was wrong.

We shouldn’t rely on someone’s major to talk for them. When we do, it deters students from choosing a major that they might not fit the mold for.

As a freshman, journalism scared me. I was relatively shy. I was never seen as popular, and I was never one to toss and turn over unanswered mysteries. A younger version of me thought being outspoken, well-liked and investigative were the necessary qualities to be a journalism student. My predetermined ideas about the major almost kept me from choosing it because I didn’t fit that mold. It did not matter that I loved to write. It did not matter that I loved to talk to people once I finally mustered up the courage to do so. The stark difference between who I am and who I thought the ideal journalism student should be almost kept me from taking the plunge.

Similar cases occur not only for those at a collegiate level but also at lower academic levels. According to a study done by Microsoft partnered with KRC Research, young women find it difficult to picture themselves in science, technology, engineering and mathematic roles. Some findings of the study indicate that girls don’t picture themselves as coders or engineers because it is a field dominated by men.

Here we see how the stereotypes we set for certain fields of study can affect a student before he or she even gets to college. Even though elementary and middle school children do not know it, they may be conditioned to sell themselves short from a field they have genuine enjoyment for.

We should encourage those who do not see themselves as the type for a major to challenge the mold set before them. You can take a class you are interested in just to test out that major. The Microsoft and KRC study suggests parents and teachers should support student’s interests because it makes a difference. “Sixty-six percent of middle school girls who were encouraged in STEM by their teacher say they are likely to study computer science in high school, compared to 40 percent who haven’t been encouraged,” the study states.

Picking a major is hard, and I would be silly to say it does not shape a large portion of your college experience. But don’t let the fear of not fitting into the stereotype hold you back. Fight the urge to shapeshift into the cookie cutter definition of your major’s ideal student. There is something to be gained by going into a field of study that scares you. If you don’t learn something from the challenge along the way, at least others will see that no major can define you.

Jackie DeFreitas is a UF journalism junior. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

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