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When going into college, is it fine to not have a clear idea of what you want to do?

I am only a sophomore in high school and I have a general gist of what I would like to do, but I am not really sure if I could decide when the time comes later. There's a few things I enjoy but I don't really know how classes will work for college exactly. I really like subjects like biology and computer science, but I don't really know if it is something I would enjoy for a career. I am worried I will commit to something I don't want to pursue anymore and waste time and money. It's also difficult to decide on a college for this reason.

Thank you comment icon It is good to have a clear picture of what you want to study in college. This should start by choosing the carrier of your choice which you would like to pursue, this will help you to know which college to attend so that you don't regret in future. Dan siangla.
Thank you comment icon It is perfectly fine not to have a clear idea at first, some research before you apply to colleges would be a good idea. PwC Impact
Thank you comment icon It's totally fine. Lok for things you're interested in and that you can help make a difference. PwC Impact

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Brandon’s Answer

Hey Ashley!

It's perfectly normal to not know what you want to do yet. In fact, it's common. How would you know when you haven't even been exposed to many subjects yet?

First, don't worry about wasting time needlessly due to indecision as a freshman. Most college programs have a lot of flexibility built in which allows for changes. Even if the credits you take in a subject in your first year don't directly count toward your eventual major, they will still count as elective credits. You will likely still have plenty of space to complete your eventual major in four years. A huge percentage of college students change majors during their undergraduate degree.

In terms of advice, I have a couple things for you to think about it. First, you still have a couple years left until you get to college. Try to spend that time testing some of these things out. You don't need to wait until you get to college to learn more about what a career in biology might look like. In addition to classwork in subjects, check out if there are other opportunities like clubs or after school programs in your area related to things that might interest you. In addition, there are many summer programs you could take advantage of that would expose you to these fields, some of which are even run by colleges. These are great opportunities to get a taste of a field before jumping into it.

Finally, if you find yourself a graduating senior who is still unsure and having a hard time committing, don't panic! You might consider pursuing admission to what's known as a liberal arts college. These have programs which are specifically designed to expose undergraduate students to a wide variety of subjects, and many are highly respected and very prestigious.

Brandon recommends the following next steps:

Don't worry, this is normal.
Pursue opportunities to learn more about areas of interest while you're still in high school.
Consider liberal arts colleges.
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PwC’s Answer

It is completely okay to not know what you want to do. Take it one day at a time, your interests are bound to change so explore as much as you can. Not knowing what you want to is the perfect opportunity to do so. I'm about to graduate college and I still don't know what I want to do, in fact I don't think I ever will have a clear picture on that. But hey that's what makes it fun!
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PwC’s Answer

The emotions you're experiencing are completely valid, but remember, you have more time than you realize to delve into your passions!
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PwC’s Answer

Hello Ashley,

Don't worry, it's absolutely okay to be unsure about your future path! College is the perfect platform to discover what truly ignites your passion, interests, and hobbies. It's an amazing opportunity to broaden your horizons, connect with a diverse group of people, and build a strong network. Remember, it's not expected of a high school student to have their entire future mapped out. So, take a deep breath and embark on this exciting journey. Best of luck!
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PwC’s Answer

College is the best time to explore what you want to do in the future, so if you are ever lost, just know that you are not the only one.
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PwC’s Answer

Absolutely, it's perfectly okay to be unsure about your future plans. Even as a college senior, there are moments when I'm uncertain about my path. I've discovered that the best approach is to dive into a variety of experiences during your first semester of college. This exploration could ignite a passion you never knew you had. If it doesn't, selecting classes that offer mentorship opportunities in potential areas of interest can be a beneficial strategy.
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Kate’s Answer

Hello Ashley,

I have a daughter who recently wrapped up her first year in college, and I want you to know that it's completely normal to have the questions you do. It's a lot of responsibility to make significant, life-altering decisions at such an early age, especially when you might not have all the necessary experience or knowledge.

Also, don't forget that you still have a couple of years left in high school. This is a great time to explore new areas of interest as well as delve deeper into the areas you're already interested in.

For example, you will have opportunities junior and senior year in high school to take advanced classes that dive deeper into various subjects. You might discover that you're drawn to one subject more than others, and a casual interest could evolve into a deep-seated passion. You might also have the chance to apply for internships, which can provide real-world perspectives on different careers. Also consider taking summer classes or enrolling in courses at your local community college to explore these subjects in greater detail, while also earning credit.

Alternatively, you might discover new interests ignited by inspiring teachers, rewarding classes, or real-world experiences. All these factors can shape your decision about which college to attend and which major to choose. And don't worry if you find yourself with an abundance of interests. This is the time to explore your options.

Keep in mind that you'll probably be able to change your major once you're in college. However, as you get closer to choosing a college and start to understand more about what you enjoy doing and what you're particularly skilled at, you may want to consider some additional steps.

Kate recommends the following next steps:

If you find that there's an area that you're passionate about, focus on adding more experience in that area and pursuing opportunities that focus on that area. Many students applying for colleges will try to "pad their resumes" with as much experience as possible, thinking that more is better. If you are serious about an area of study, however, you will distinguish yourself by focusing your efforts on that area through classes at school, extracurricular activities, or internships. This will signal to colleges that this is an area of true interest rather than a passing fancy. (Worst case scenario, you may discover that you don't like something as much as you thought you did, which is also helpful to know earlier rather than later!)
Research colleges and universities that specialize in your field of interest. Find out why they are well-known for this major. Is it one well-known professor? Do they have a good alumnae network? Are there opportunities during the summer for internships? If possible, try and talk to current students in your major to find out what they like and what they wish they knew before attending their college and choosing their major. Students are often eager to share their experiences with someone with the same interests.
Research how competitive the majors you might be interested in are at the universities you are thinking of applying to. In some cases, especially with STEM majors at universities with world-class programs, you may not be able to switch majors. It's better knowing this information before you apply so you can factor it into your application process. It also may be more difficult to get into a college that is one of the best universities in your particular field, so you may want to identify some schools with good programs that aren't as competitive so you have backups.
Don't panic if you don't find that one passion. Look for a well-rounded school with plenty of opportunities to learn inside and outside the classroom.
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Ashley !

You certainly have found the perfect forum to inquire about this subject because you will greatly benefit from a variety of subjective and objective advice and guidance.

It boils down to your concern about being undecided on one thing which is, in turn, causing you indecision on the first step (choosing a college). Having an interest in Biology and Computer Science, both viable careers, is somewhat of a good step. You have interests and that's where it begins. So right now, your interests can be a guide but there needs to be resolution about projecting into the future far ahead of even starting college and working in those or another field.

You might want to start out by assessing what makes you believe that you "can't commit" to a career in a certain thing. Is it the course work ? Is it the hours on the job ? Are there some facets of your interests that you like and others that you don't like ? Have you come to your indecision by observation ? These are some questions you can ask yourself. Every person's career goes differently. Some people do work in one field and than do lose interest and transition to a new career in which they bring their skills. It's not impossible. Many people do not know what to major in at first. I myself worked in my major for a time, than transitioned into a field I minored in, than after decades, went back into my major study field. The truth is, one can never predict how one's career/s will go. The wonderful part of this is that you do have the desire and intent to attend college. Take it a step at a time.

You mention that because you do not know what to major in or what career you want, you do not know what college to apply to. It seems as though you have time on your side for exploring this as you are currently a sophomore. I would advise looking at colleges locally at first. Read about different majors and visit in person as many as you can. Consider factors such a what your financial means will be, whether or not you want to go out of state or stay local, student services offered, whether you want to live in the dormitory or have roommates in an off campus apartment. Explore the different towns and cities where the colleges are, and see if the environment may be one suited to you.

I wish you all the best with your decisions and by exploring the different avenues of majors and colleges, in time, you will realize your direction.
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Ka’s Answer

Absolutely, it's perfectly okay if you're unsure about what you want to study when you first step into college. Remember, many of my peers didn't declare their majors until their second or third year. This means you have plenty of time to delve into a variety of subjects that pique your curiosity. By enrolling in diverse courses, and gaining experience through part-time jobs or internships in various sectors, you'll gather the insights you need to delve deeper into your chosen field.

When it comes to choosing a college, aim for one that aligns well with your academic goals, personal values, and social preferences. Remember, college isn't a closed system. If you find that your initial choice isn't quite right, or another institution seems a better fit, you always have the option to transfer. So don't worry, take your time, explore, and enjoy the journey of discovery.
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Megan’s Answer

Hi Ashley,

Hopefully by the time you are a senior, you will be able to explore your options more and have a better idea of what you want to pursue. I would explore your interests as much as possible while in high school. Look into job shadowing, internships, volunteering, or part-time jobs related to your interests. I also highly suggest looking at college summer camps. They usually offer some in computer science. It will give you an idea of life in college and also a future career. Just look for any and all opportunities to explore careers you might be interested in.

If the time comes and you want to go to college and are unsure that is still OK. With the knowledge that you do not want to waste time or money, I would suggest that in your first two years, you focus on doing only your general education courses. Bachelor's degrees are made up of your general education courses along with your major/minor. General education courses typically take about 2 years to complete and they can help you explore a little longer before you choose a major. You could also do this at a community college to save more money. I would use those 2 years to continue exploring the careers of interest.

Some helpful resources in college include your academic advisor (like a counselor) and the career services office. Both places can help with guiding you in your choices.

I hope this helps!
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Walter’s Answer

If you’re mentioning computer science, it sounds like you could apply for scholarships. It’s free money. The more free money you get the more classes you can play with.

You could also take a gap year. Ex: my cousin never went to college but he’s a nerd so he easily got into cybersecurity.
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Bobak’s Answer

This is a great question!

This conventionally has been a difficult problem to solve that concerns a very significant part of our lives. I would like to approach a complimentary solution to aid the other answers in this list. Ensuring the career you've chosen is truly the right one for you involves investigating your own learning process & striving to make your own way of conceptualizing relevant fields of knowledge compatible with its career path. A big misstep for many is overlooking whether one is okay with the perceived downsides of a career option, which often blindsides them later in life. Oftentimes career paths are portrayed in its best light, this may attract many to put many years of work into making that their own career, & end up justify pursuing something they find out later on makes them miserable due to already having put in a great deal of effort, time, money, & stress. This trap is a concept referred to as the Sunken Cost Fallacy. I think there are a lot of preventative steps that can be taken to put yourselves in such learning environments early on, not only to develop your own learning style in more academically rigorous settings early on, but to also learn how adaptable your learning style is to learning in a specific field. This may bring up crucially important questions: Does this change my perception of the career significantly? Does that change impact my desire to pursue it? Do the realities of studying & working for this career path open up new ideas for other more suitable career paths that I haven't considered before? These questions are incredibly important, but unfortunately are asked after not having placed oneself in an environment to truly put these questions to the test, leading many to change career paths later in life at a great cost. That being said, it can be circumvented, but it involves truly getting at the root of your values in a career context, especially focusing over what specific aspect exactly of career path X (or learning this career) motivates me or gives me a purpose, then figuring out the 'why' from these specific values. Once you manage to get a good grasp on these questions, you have a major compliment to other solutions outlined by others in this thread to boost your confidence towards truly knowing what you believe is right for you!
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McNeil’s Answer

Yes that’s the name of the game. Most people have the same problem. And when I say most I mean almost everyone. My advice is if you like something pursue it. Don’t necessarily look at money projections. In this country money is in everything so you might as well make it In something you like.
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Jacob’s Answer

It's completely normal to not have a clear idea of what you want to do when entering college. Many students feel the same way, and it's okay to explore different subjects and interests during your college journey. In fact, college is an excellent time to discover new passions and refine your career goals.

Keep in mind that you don't have to have your entire life plan figured out right away. Take the time to explore subjects you enjoy, like biology and computer science, through courses and extracurricular activities. It's essential to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.

Remember that many college students change their majors or career paths along the way, and that's okay too. College is about personal growth and learning, both academically and personally. Don't feel pressured to make a definite decision right now.

To minimize the risk of committing to something you might not enjoy, consider talking to academic advisors, professors, and professionals in fields you are interested in. They can offer valuable insights and guidance to help you make informed decisions.

Lastly, when choosing a college, prioritize institutions that offer a wide range of academic programs and have resources to support students in exploring their interests. Look for schools with career counseling services and internships that can help you gain real-world experience in your chosen fields.

In the end, trust that you'll find your path with time and experience. Stay curious, be open to new opportunities, and remember that your college experience is a valuable part of your journey towards discovering your passions and career goals.
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Doctorate Student’s Answer

Hello there! The most important thing is to follow your passion, and everything else will naturally align. To save both time and money, consider starting with General Education courses at a Community College, which are usually tuition-free. This will also give you a taste of what subjects truly captivate you. Don't hesitate to consult with a college or career counselor, as their guidance can be incredibly beneficial. Here's to your success! Best of luck and warm wishes on your journey!
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Yvette’s Answer

Hi Ashley! It is 100% okay to not know what exactly you'd like to pursue in college, especially as a sophomore in high school. As you finish your junior and senior years, and even your first year in college, think about the subjects you find yourself more interested in and gravitating towards naturally. Whatever field you end up in down the road, it's most important to love what you do and be interested in it. Follow your gut and you'll land on the right path. Best of luck!
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