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If you’re not sure what you want to study, you’re not alone

Regina Labardini joins us this year as a 2018 alumni contributor to share her experience as a Diploma Programme (DP). 

By Regina Labardini

Whether you are a current or a former IB student, you probably have, to a greater or lesser extent, a passion for learning. Most likely, then, your thirst for knowledge will lead you down the path to lifelong learning.

But for now, besides finishing any incomplete assignments and listening to that voice in the back of your head that keeps telling you to start studying for your exams and, of course, apart from getting some much needed sleep, there is something else you need to put on your to-do list: Decide which university you want to go to and, more importantly, what you want to major in. I’m sure that there will be days when you think you have everything under control, but there will also be others when you’ll struggle to find a reason or the energy to get out of bed. You’ll feel a strange mix of emotions that ranges from being excited about finally finishing your IB studies to being scared stiff about your future because it seems so up in the air.

At first glance, you might think it’s a piece of cake: All you need to do is pick a major that you’re interested in and that you think you are basically good at. But what if you can’t pick just one and you end up having to decide among three, and they’re all completely different! Or what happens if no major sounds good? Or even worse. What if you pick the wrong major? What happens if you make a mistake? Even though we have probably never met, dear reader, and regardless of the fact that universities work differently in different countries, I can still assure you of one thing: You are not the first and you will not be the last to have these kinds of doubts.

You may be going through a vocational crisis if, when you look at your classmate in the seat next to you, you wonder how it’s possible for him to have such a well-defined plan when you don’t even know where to start to get your life organised. Hey! Don’t worry about it. I know people who have had their whole lives planned out since they were 12 (me too, although I eventually changed directions), but I also know people who still don’t know what they want to do with their life at 40! During the two years I spent in economics higher level (HL), I never once thought about becoming an economist, but, at the same time, during my two years in physics standard level (SL), I did figure out that I would never major in any of the fields of engineering or any of the natural sciences. The two years you spend in the Diploma Programme (DP) really help you explore and define your interests, your skills and your areas of opportunity. And, when you’re all finished, even if you only know what you don’t want to study, at least you will have gained knowledge that will help you later on in life, and probably when you least expect.

Like my father told me when I was at this stage: “Nobody expects you, at such a young age, to be able to make a decision like this without making mistakes along the way.” I certainly can’t guarantee that you won’t make a few mistakes; in fact, I’m only 98% sure that I haven’t made one myself. So, what I can do is to give you some personal advice about the steps I think you ought to take. For starters, I think it’s easiest to just go ahead and rule out all of those majors that you’re completely sure you’re not interested in, the ones that are either not right for you or those that require certain skills or qualities that you just don’t have. You need to focus on the majors that are in fact a good fit; in other words, you need to decide between either the majors you’re good at, but that you might not love, and the ones you’re really interested in, but that might be challenging. I went with the latter option and it was the right choice for me.

Soon you’ll find yourself spending days on end making list after list, checking out different universities and the curriculums they offer, and narrowing down your choices. Some of you may make your final decision quickly and easily, but there is the chance that you might end up even more confused than when you first started. I would really like to be able to help answer your questions about what you should study and where. In fact, I think that the right major and university are out there somewhere, so it’s just a matter of finding the combination that best matches your personality and your values. In my case, after two years of giving it absolutely no thought, I eventually decided to major in economics.

Before I go, I’d like to stress the importance of making the most of your university experience. Even though you shouldn’t neglect your academic obligations, it’s worth keeping in mind that you may never have the same chance again to get to know all of the people you are going to meet while at university, and that includes getting to know yourself. So take the opportunity to explore those subjects and majors that, even though they may seem scary, you just can’t help wanting to learn more about.


Regina Labardini completed the Diploma Programme at the Santa Fe Campus of Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico City. She has continued her studies and is now majoring in economics with a minor in finance. Regina loves public speaking as well as inspiring and helping others. One day, she would like to become an IB examiner.