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The pressure of choosing your degree

Sofia Della Sala reassures us that it's okay not to have your entire life planned-out.

It might just be me, but I chose my undergraduate degree based on what subjects I was good at in school and which classes I enjoyed going to. Was this naïve? Maybe. Uninformed? Potentially. Do I regret it? Not really.

Many may fear that what you study at university locks you in for life: that since I studied chemistry, I must now be a chemist. However, I am happy to assure you that this is not the case. Degree disciplines are a lot more fluid than just the subject you study, as they should be. How are you expected, at 17 years old, to be able to decide on a lifelong career, especially given that you may not have ever even heard of half the subjects offered at university before?

Something I had to quickly learn was not to be scared of change. I embarked on a five-year degree in a subject which today I no longer pursue. And that is ok. I loved chemistry at school and did well in it, so it seemed like the logical choice for progressing into higher education, but, as I got into the nitty gritty of the subject, I realised that I didn’t want to stand in a lab working with molecules I couldn’t even see. Now I am entering the field of Earth Science, looking at rocks and oceans, areas which I have no experience in, which explains the catching up I have to do.

If you choose to go on to do a post-grad degree, it doesn’t have to be a continuation of your undergrad course. For some people it is, and it is great that they have managed to find what they like so early on; but if you are like me, you might be thinking that you are not sure you have a ‘passion’ like someone who has been obsessed with space since they were four. You can start afresh, and dip your toes into another pond to see if the water is to your liking.

The future is always scary – I get stressed about what I am doing next week, never mind next year. When I graduated from my undergrad, I was so lost that I applied to masters programmes ranging from archaeology to social security. I do not recommend that to anyone, but it highlights the non-linearity of where degrees can take you. You may, like me, have chosen a subject in high school on a whim, stuck through it for years, and are now unsure of where to go next. I wish there was some concrete advice I could give you, but I am just at the start of my post-grad adventure, so let me get back to you in a couple of years.

If you love learning and studying, then don’t be worried about changing fields and going off the beaten path. Sure, it might not be as well-lit as the others, but hopefully there will be people around you to help show you the way.

Image Credit: Ekrulila via Pexels.

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