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The major race: Figuring out what to study

Each year we invite IB alumni to share their experiences, interests and advice with our global community in the graduate voices series. We welcome Diploma Programme (DP) graduate of Quartz Hill High School, Seerat Chawla as she shares her journey to find a major.

Close up of examining of test sample under the microscope in laboratory.

By Seerat Chawla

Growing up, I did not have a particular inclination towards art or mathematics nor did I spend hours pondering about the origins of the universe. I found all subjects equally interesting and with some effort, I performed well in all of them during high school. Like many of my classmates, I cruised through high school where the choices were minimal, the thought never occurring to me that this universal enjoyment of learning would be the cause of so much frustration my freshman year of university. I simply liked all my courses.

“Everyone around me had their majors, internships, graduation times and jobs all planned out, while I was still trying to fall in love with a subject.”

Applying to university, I chose neuroscience as my intended major on my application. I had enjoyed DP Psychology and DP Biology and assumed that college classes would be similar. To me, which major was a trivial one question on the college application. I always thought that I would figure it out once I got to university. I imagined that I too would fall in love with a subject area, one that I could talk about for ages and never bore of. So, what I selected now was bound to transform into the major that is a perfect match for me eventually.

It is with this idealistic notion that I began my first year of university. However, it soon started to feel like I was the only one figuring my future out right now. Everyone around me had their majors, internships, graduation times and jobs all planned out, while I was still trying to fall in love with a subject. Frustrated and rather scared that I was behind everyone, I rushed to find my place on campus. Every time I came across a career, I attempted to conjure up a universe where I filled that position. I started off as a biomedical engineer, designing prosthetic limbs. Other days, I was always on the move as an investment banker on Wall Street or filing my clients’ oppositions as a patent lawyer. To better understand these career paths, I connected with diverse organizations, alumni and students. I learned how to code, pipette, debate, design and even act. I continued this process in a desperate search for a major to fit under and introduce myself with.

“Through this exploratory period, I saw various paths to one place, learning the pivotal lesson that a major does not translate into a specific job.”

Eventually, I tired of this endless search and came to the realization that I could see myself in several fields of work. Individuals are multifaceted and we each have many sides to ourselves. This makes selecting a major out of the countless choices even more difficult. Moreover, through this exploratory period, I saw various paths to one place, learning the pivotal lesson that a major does not translate into a specific job. In fact, I have met English literature majors who are now working as web developers and bioengineers who are making their way through law school. Although it might feel like you are alone in this world of possibilities and decisions, everyone around you does not have it all figured out as well. We are all at different stages and constantly evaluating what is right for us individually. While choosing a major may sometimes feel like you are choosing your entire life (I know at least for me it did at times), it is important to keep in mind that the skill set you develop throughout these four years or so is much more important.

So, nearing the end of my freshman year, I am now a biochemistry major looking for a possible minor. However, regardless of major, I find myself once again enjoying learning everything that I possibly can in my time at university and I am in no rush.

seerat square

Seerat Chawla graduated from Quartz Hill High School with the IB diploma in 2018. She now is a first-year at the University of California Los Angeles. Between classes, you can find her working in a research lab, debating or exploring LA. Joining this year as an alumni contributor, Seerat is looking forward to sharing her experiences as a recent graduate with fellow IB students.

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at alumni.relations@ibo.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!

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