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Well, I Do Declare [Ask the Sherpa]

Sherpa, the Sherpa

A student intones:

Dear Sherpa,

I know what I want to major in, and how I want to spend the rest of my days, doing philosophy and only philosophy. But I’m scared to declare my major, and become a real person. What if I change my mind? Does this mean I have to start working on my thesis right now? I’m only a sophomore…why do I feel like I’m donning my cap and gown already?

Dare to Declare

Dear Dare,

Its very scary to take that first step, I know. But thats probably the worst part of the whole process. Once you declare that major, you’ll get all kinds of perks like being on the listserv, job leads, and internship opportunities.

You’ll also get an additional adviser, get to take advanced classes in that field and your work/research can later (much later) be referenced in your (far, far away) thesis. More importantly, you’ll find that once you start down the path you’ll find that the steps are laid out for you in a natural progression.  You don’t have to worry about all that’s ahead of you, it will come in due time.  And then it will pass.

I can relate to your fear. I once took a fabulous ocean cruise to a place where tourists rarely, if ever went. I was a bit nervous to say the least, and when I climbed aboard the Santa Maria, a billion little anxieties were running through my brain. But I realized there was a whole crew of people in the same boat as me, and I felt reassured that we’d make it through together.

Once we were out at sea, it was just a matter of course.  The winds were in our favor, we were being led by a trustworthy guide, and in the end, we landed exactly where we wanted to. Or at least that’s what we told everyone.  All that anxiety was for naught.

See, even if you know you want to be a Philosophy major, you can keep shopping around after you’ve declared. And if you discover a latent love of Biology, you can always use your opposable thumbs (I’m not jealous, they’re overrated!) to adjust your sails and go that way. You just have to choose your own path, not necessarily make a whole new one.  You’ll be in the company of others in front of you and behind you.  Follow their lead, take it one step at a time, and you’ll be fine.