There’s a reason one out of every three college students change their major sometime in their undergraduate years… but you don’t realize how tough that decision can be until it’s actually your life in your hands.
I’m one of those people that’s always had a clear vision for my life. I need a play-by-play of the evening before I commit to going and I need to know what I’m going to order for dinner before I get in the car to go to the restaurant. You could say that spontaneity is not my strong suit. So you can imagine when I realized my life-long career goals weren’t right for me, I had a full-on meltdown.
Rewind about a decade to the fifth grade, circa 2009. In my elementary school, the school news was delivered each Friday by what I viewed as an elite group of fifth graders. So when I finally met the grade requirement, I couldn’t apply fast enough. The problem was, nearly every fifth grader wanted to be a part of the news team. With so much competition, I knew my chances were slim – so I didn’t get my hopes up.
A few days later my teacher pulled my to his desk and told me I was selected to be a part of the news team. Even though I was only 10 years old, that day forever changed my life.
I’ll never forget the feeling of watching my first broadcast be aired in front of all of my classmates. I was always a shy student, but being behind a camera allowed me to use my voice without the pressure of my peers staring me down. Sure, I might have only been talking about the lunch specials of the upcoming week, but that broadcast gave me a platform. That was the day I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I would be the next Katie Couric, and I was willing to do anything to get me there.
I held that dream close to my heart for the next nine years. I got involved in my middle school news club and even picked up a theatre hobby to perfect my public speaking. When it came time to pick colleges, I applied to only the most renowned journalism schools that I thought would fast track my path to becoming a news anchor.
I made the best decision of my life to end up at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I adored all of my introduction level classes in the school of media and journalism and felt like my life had never been more right – that is, until my first audio journalism course.
It was the first time I had ever experienced the true core of the news industry. I was no longer reporting on clubs students could join or accomplishments of the county, I was tasked with reporting on the hard-hitting situations in America, and I hated it. I lacked the inspiration to get out in the field and felt invasive prodding for answers in interviews. All of the sudden, that magic I felt in the fifth grade was completely gone.
That semester I tried to ignore how unhappy I was for as long as possible. I shoved down the doubts I had about myself and my dream career and convinced myself that I would learn to love it. But lying to myself could only last so long.
By junior year, I knew I needed to change my specialization, but for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
College survival tip #2: it’s okay to change your mind, seriously. Not having your life completely figured at this age out is actually incredibly normal.
After many conversations with my professors, advisors, peers, and family, I ended up in strategic communication – a track that combines aspects of marketing, public relations, and advertising. This allowed me to practice using my voice and storytelling the same way I did in fifth grade, but this time on behalf of a brand, person, or product.
In a way, my passions never changed – I just found a better way to use them. No matter how terrifying my realization that I wasn’t fit for journalism may have been, I can’t imagine my path turning out any other way. The truth is, without my fifth grade school newscast, I would have never found my love for media and journalism.