Digital Diaries Season 2 Episode 1: To change or not to change…majors?

Erica Schmitt, Audio Editor

In a crisis about sticking with or picking a major? Listen to episode nine of Digital Diaries to hear students with similar experiences!

ERICA SCHMITT: College at Northwestern is already tough — the course load, the fast pace, the clubs — it’s a lot. Now imagine figuring out your career path on top of that…

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ERICA SCHMITT: Yup, that’s pretty tough.


ERICA SCHMITT: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Erica Schmitt. This is Digital Diaries, a weekly podcast following the college experience and asking students a question about life at Northwestern. Welcome to the first episode of season two! We hope you had a restful break.

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ERICA SCHMITT: This week’s question is: What’s your experience with picking a major?

ERICA SCHMITT: Sophomore Bryden Behrens is an undecided transfer student from Loyola University Chicago. Behrens says he sees the silver lining in being a transfer student.

BRYDEN BEHRENS: I’ve already been in the trenches working towards a degree that I do not want or like I’m not interested in so that has helped kind of shape my viewpoint and mindset in that regard.

ERICA SCHMITT: But he still sometimes feels like he is at a disadvantage.

BRYDEN BEHRENS: I’m not going to be here for the four years that everyone else is and I don’t think I can reap the benefits of the quarter system as much as students who are going to be here for four years will because it’s another thing that’s advertised as the academic flexibility of the quarter system.

ERICA SCHMITT: After two years at Loyola and Northwestern combined, he is still unsure what exactly is the right major for him.

BRYDEN BEHRENS: I feel like there’s a certain pressure that we have to know exactly what we want to do with our life despite our life not even being a quarter of the way over, hopefully knock on wood. And it definitely makes it more difficult going to college because you feel like you’re working for a degree that doesn’t exist because you don’t have a major. It gets very disheartening when people are like “Oh, you have so much time to choose like you you’re going to be fine.”

ERICA SCHMITT: Why is it so disheartening for Behrens? Because of its popularity at Northwestern, Behrens is now considering economics. Before, he only considered political science or Spanish.

BRYDEN BEHRENS: We have 12% of our whole school getting a degree in economics and I couldn’t help but think well why can’t I do that? But then on the other hand, it creates the other question of well because so many people are doing it, how am I going to stand out? How am I not just another white male in econ. So that’s the two sides of my brain firing off. And I think the culture has definitely contributed to that. Because I wouldn’t have ever considered an econ major before coming here. Never, ever, ever, ever, like economics probably wasn’t even in my vocabulary before I came here. So my only requirements are anything but STEM. That’s my little, like catchphrase.

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ERICA SCHMITT: Sophomore Lizzie Dozois is also undecided and wishes she knew her major.

LIZZIE DOZOIS: I really envy kids who know like exactly what they want to do. Like some of my friends from last year in my dorm are hard-set on engineering and I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I did feel pressure last year, but I definitely think it’s eased up this year because now I have like a more solid idea of what I do want to pursue.

ERICA SCHMITT: Her struggle to pick a major is partially due to high school, a time when she never got to explore her passions.

LIZZIE DOZOIS: I didn’t really take classes like in high school that were kind of geared towards like kind of my interests because I didn’t really know what they were, but more towards like getting into college. Like taking APs and stuff. I feel like a lot of kids at Northwestern also like did a bunch of APs. So coming into college, I thought going in undeclared was the best decision just because I had no idea what I wanted to do.

ERICA SCHMITT: Over the past year and a half, Dozois satisfied her distribution requirements while also weeding out her major choices.

LIZZIE DOZOIS: Last year, I started taking like STEM classes, like computer science. I thought that could be a good route. Just because I thought I was interested in it and I was like, good at math and like science, that was kind of my thing in high school. But after taking a couple computer science classes, I thought maybe this is not for me.

ERICA SCHMITT: Like Behrens, Dozois is impacted by Northwestern’s intense pre-professional culture.

LIZZIE DOZOIS: I feel like sometimes at Northwestern, the mindset is kind of geared towards like the money that you make after college, rather than what you’re actually passionate about.

ERICA SCHMITT: Despite the push to declare majors that typically lead to high-paying careers, Dozois is most likely declaring a major in English by the end of this quarter or in the spring.

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ERICA SCHMITT: Do you have any advice for students on campus?

BRYDEN BEHRENS: If you’re going to be doing something that you’re going to hate for the rest of your life, don’t do it. If you’re doing it for the money, don’t do it. You have one go around on this planet. And even though I’m in crisis, like nine or eight days, seven days out of the week, I am comfortable knowing that when I do choose a major that it will be something that I enjoy.

ERICA SCHMITT: Dozois says it might be beneficial to take the time you need to decide your major.

LIZZIE DOZOIS: I would definitely say, especially for freshmen, if you don’t know, definitely just take your time to explore different things because it just, it really helps, because you’re gonna find stuff that you really like and more importantly, things that you won’t like. So I think even eliminating things is easier than like choosing something.

ERICA SCHMITT: So to anyone who may not know their major yet or wants to change it, you are not alone!


ERICA SCHMITT: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Erica Schmitt. Thanks for listening to the first episode of season 2 for The Daily’s Digital Diaries. This episode was reported and produced by me. The Audio Editor of The Daily Northwestern is myself, the Digital Managing Editors are Joanne Haner and Olatunji Osho-Williams and the Editor-in-Chief is Alex Perry. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear next week’s episode on Monday.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @eschmitt318

Digital Diaries Episode 8: Grappling with Imposter Syndrome at Northwestern
Digital Diaries Episode 5: Redefining what it means to “catch up” as a transfer student
Digital Diaries Episode 1: Adjusting to Northwestern