Student voice: Choices after college more important than major

By Toni Ann Pennello - [email protected] | September 14th, 2017 11:52 am

It still hasn’t hit me.

Come May, for the first time since I was 4 years old, I won’t be buying school supplies. I won’t be doing any required summer reading. I won’t choose my schedule. I won’t have homework.

It also hasn’t fully hit me that this is when the real planning should start.

For someone like me, who always knew I wanted to go to college, the choice of my path in life was obvious when I graduated from high school.

I didn’t have to worry about whether I wanted to take a year off, whether I wanted to go to technical school, whether I wanted to enter the workforce, or whether I wanted to get my gen-eds done at a community college — I knew my next step was at a university.

That part was easy for me, if you don’t factor in that I had changed my major three times by my sophomore year, and that I spent a nervous week before the start of my freshman year trying to convince myself not to go.

A lot of people mistakenly think the beginning of one’s undergraduate studies is the most important step in their career. That’s when you pick your major, but usually you know almost nothing about what an actual career in the field is like.

Do you think anyone actually expects an 18-year-old to have it all figured out?

I attend Wilkes University, and my second faculty adviser — from my 1 1/2 semesters as a psychology major — told me the focus of my undergraduate studies wouldn’t make a huge difference anyway.

That really stuck with me.

That doesn’t mean your whole undergraduate career is pointless, and it doesn’t mean you can graduate with an English degree and expect to be a chemist. What it does mean is that your life after college is more flexible than you might think.

That sounded fantastic two years ago when I couldn’t make up my mind about what to study, but now it’s a little overwhelming, because I’m heading toward that point of flexibility, and my options seem endless.

I also feel like everyone I know already has a five-year plan.

Heck, I don’t have a one-year plan. Is “going with the flow” really the best way to use my bachelor’s degree?

I will be 21 years old when I graduate. How much free time should I let myself enjoy before I get a 9-to-5?

I really wish I had an answer, but here’s what I do know at this point:

This is where I become my truest self, regardless of what my choice is. This is where I figure out what makes me happy, what makes me my best me.

It is a privilege to have that choice, and it is a privilege to have dreams.

By Toni Ann Pennello

[email protected]

Toni Ann Pennello is a Wilkes University senior who works in the Times Leader newsroom.