I started my journey at Virginia Tech in August of 2021, and by that December, I’d already changed my major. The same goes for a lot of my friends. Sometimes that’s just how it is. You take a random course for your general education requirements and boom – you find an interest, and suddenly the original plan for your four years at college becomes a distant memory.

Incoming freshmen don’t have to have it all figured out when they come into college — most people don’t even have it figured out when they leave. For some reason, there’s this societal belief that everyone is supposed to find their passions at a young age, do that until they’re 65, and retire at an age where their body is probably too fragile to do all the dangerous bungee jumping and skydiving they were craving when they were younger. Luckily, our generation is changing things little by little.

Oscar Wilde, a famous poet from the late 1800s, had a lot to say about knowing what you want to be in life.

“If you want to be a grocer, or a general, or a politician, or a judge, you will invariably become it; that is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if you live what some might call the dynamic life but what I will call the artistic life, if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know, you will never become anything, and that is your reward,” Wilde wrote. 

Being in college gives students the opportunity to be lost. Which, as Wilde shows, isn’t a bad thing, but a gift. It gives them the chance to take random classes that sound cool and fun just because they want to try it out. Freshmen will be placed in an environment where they can take a break from the typical science or math class for a few credits and take a course on World Religions, Floral Design, Painting or anything they want to try out that they haven’t yet.

Mia Olsen, a rising junior majoring in computer engineering with a focus on software systems, spoke about her own conflicting decision on what to study.

“When I came into school I was dead set on majoring in computer science,” she said. “After my fundamentals in engineering class forced me to go to an info session on all of these different engineering majors, I changed my major to computer engineering.”

Mia’s experience demonstrates that even those who enter college with a foolproof plan for their degree may change their minds when they allow themselves to learn about different options. Mia went on to offer advice for incoming freshmen.

“Going into college, nobody really realizes how many majors are actually provided… there’s a wide range and so many. I’ve also known at least ten people that have changed their major at least once before they graduated. If you have a chance to try a different class, I’d say definitely go for it,” she said.

That’s the fun thing about college. Rarely do people have it all figured out. Incoming students can give themselves a break and just take the first year to get situated and take full advantage of the interesting courses offered. All the specific classes for whatever major is chosen will be taken eventually, but when entering college, it’s okay to not be in the know. It’s fine to just go with the flow of the unknown and see where life takes you. Even if freshmen enter college with enough AP credits to cover the general education requirements of electives, it can still be beneficial to take a few of those interesting courses — because why not try something new when it’s being offered to you? This is an opportunity students should take advantage of. 

That’s why so many people miss college.  For four years they lived in a world where constantly exploring something new was not only an expectation, but also encouraged. They had a built in social life, breaks over the summer and a purpose to just live and explore. This is a world where students are allowed to be free — where they’re given the “reward” described by Oscar Wilde. 

Incoming freshmen will figure out who they want to be eventually, and then discover something new and reinvent themselves again. In the end, keeping an open mind with the unknown and giving yourself the chance to try something new is what will keep you going. It’s the mindset you need to grow and improve the ever-changing versions of yourself.

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