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5 Lessons From the Major Search

Lexi shares some advice she has gathered as a freshly declared sophomore.

Lexi shares some advice she has gathered as a freshly declared sophomore.


Since I am a Carl in the spring term of my sophomore year, I must constantly talk about my major plans. It’s obligatory. I feel compelled to share with you a few pointers that will make your search for a major just a little bit easier. In doing so, I will also share some experiences that I’ve had in my major search, as they relate to classes and activities at Carleton.

Focus on what you love, then try something else.

This is my number one tip. Originally, I wanted to say “Move outside your comfort zone,” but that’s a useless cliche that you’ll hear everywhere. In my case, taking classes outside of SOAN – like macroeconomics, linguistics, and history – made it very clear to me that SOAN is where I belong. In each of those courses, I was drawn to the study of people and groups, which is what SOAN is all about. If I had never taken courses beyond SOAN, I don’t think I would feel so confident that it is the major for me.

Trying something else besides the things that jump out at you right away allows you to create a truthful comparison between what each discipline is like. There is a possibility that the liberal arts education of your favorite subject in middle school is radically different from what you remember you loved. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong! It just means you have some more exploring to do to find that same joy in the liberal arts education.

Max, Allie and I on a bus
Max, Allie, and I all have spent a fair amount of time trying out various majors and exploring classes. We were sitting on a bus when this photo was taken, so you could say we were bus-y.

Talk to students and professors in the major.

Talk to seniors, juniors, and sophomores. Talk to professors you’ve had for a class and ones that you haven’t had. Talk to SDAs, TAs, and administrative assistants. Spend time in the respective major lounge while scoping out what kinds of books they have on display there. Sometimes they even have snacks, but you didn’t hear that from me.

You get the point. Talk to as many people involved in the major (or perhaps even minor?) so you can hear about what draws them to this field. They will surely have some advice for you about getting major requirements done and what topics within the discipline are most fascinating to them. Use their advice as a springboard for your major experience, always be sure to be true to yourself when it comes down to choosing classes.

Anna Mikhailovna holds flowers
Professor Anna Mikhailovna is possibly the sweetest person I know. Her theatrical knowledge and fun prizes made my Russian 101 experience that much better!

Don’t let the naysayers get you down.

In my experience, most everybody at Carleton wants to see you thrive happily in an academic and emotional capacity. They want you to follow your interests as far as they will take you. That being said, sometimes people (from Carleton and your hometown) can be a little unintentionally impolite when you choose a major outside of what they THINK is best. Do not, I repeat, do not, take it to heart! Much of what people say, in life generally and about your major specifically, is a reflection of their own experiences, background, and mentality that day. It often has nothing to do with you, so don’t let one not-so-positive conversation totally change your major plans.

The biggest naysayer, for many of us, is the internalized expectations we have for ourselves. For a lot of my first year, I kept trying to convince myself to become a STEM girlie, but the truth is, I am much more of a humanities human. It is just what I am drawn to, and while I am confident a biology lab or chemistry class would be a great experience, it just isn’t what I am passionate about. Take the classes you find interesting, and don’t ever bully yourself over it!

Follow your values and interests instead of running from your fears and weaknesses.

It is about you chasing your dreams, not your fears chasing you. I promise, there is a difference! If you are afraid to take a class because you might not get an A or you are worried about how difficult it might be, go talk to the professor about it before you register for your classes. They may be able to quiet your worries a little bit before you even take the class. 

When you are doing the things you love, even if they are challenging, it will be much simpler to ask for help when you need it. You will be more likely to seek support in professors’ office hours, at the Writing Center, at the QRC, and even with your TAs. It is passion that allows people to keep striving for their goals, not running from things they feel they are bad at.

My own experience has been with language-learning. I was not naturally talented at learning Russian, but I found such a community in the department that I was inspired to keep trying. Today, I am proudly pursuing a double major in Russian and SOAN. So what’s the moral here? You can be inexperienced and untalented at something and still do well. It is much more important to do something you are passionate about than to stick to the things you are naturally talented at.

Harrison, Lexi, and Jonah pose before their triathlon
I needed to extend the running metaphor as far as I could. Here is a picture of Harrison, Jonah, and me prior to our relay triathlon. Running is another thing I am not naturally talented at.

Your major is only a part of who you are.

I am guilty of forgetting about this! As much as academics are a significant part of life at Carleton, there are so many other aspects of life that are important. Being a good friend, serving your community, and learning how to take care of yourself are also significant! Don’t ever reduce yourself to your major; you are so much more than that.

This is where work-life balance comes into play for me. As much as I would love to spend all my time reading sociological articles in the Libe, I know that it isn’t healthy for me to do that. I need to socialize with other people too. My number one tip is to turn meal time into socializing time. If you can schedule meals with friends (or go to the various language/department tables twice a week), you’ll be much better off than if you spent that time eating really quickly and studying. Trust me, your tummy and mental health – it is interesting how connected those two things are, fun fact – will thank you later!

Chloe and Darina embrace in an LDC classroom
Chloe and Darina remind me that even though Russian class is important to me, the friends I have made along the way are even more important.

Takeaways

The major search (i.e., the process of going back and forth between majors that you really love and can’t decide between) is a tradition here at Carleton. However, just because it is a tradition, that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own spin on it! Allow your passions and values to guide you to a major. You are going to be okay no matter what major you end up choosing as long as you choose it of your own free will. You are much more than an academic designation. I believe in you. Now go out there and explore!


Lexi Wallace (she/her) is excited to be returning to Carleton as a sophomore. She works as an Admissions Blogger, Russian Teaching Assistant, and Writing Consultant. She plans on becoming a SOAN and Russian double major, but you’ll have to ask her what she ends up declaring in the spring. Her current obsessions are oat milk, NCIS, and Doc Martens.