How I Chose My Major

Luckily, my parents never told me that I had to be a doctor or a lawyer—they encouraged me to follow my heart and to use my education to find out what really made me happy. But everything has two sides, and exploring what you really want to do can be even more difficult than simply following the path your parents choose for you.

Math Zero, to Math Hero

As a high school student, I never liked math. In China, math is about memorization and repetition, and you always have a foot-high math exercise book right by your desk. As a result of my distaste for it, I would fail my math exams, despite being a top student.

I didn’t start appreciating math until I went to San Antonio, Texas, for my last year of high school, where I took AP calculus with a goofy math teacher named Mr. D. He would make math classes enjoyable by doing things like playing Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” while we were solving difficult problems, or giving a stuffed animal to whoever solved the problem first.

Those things might sound immature for high school seniors; but we enjoyed every math class because Mr. D made us realize that doing math can be fun and, when you’re willing to embrace it, can be easy as well.

When math became easier for me, I realized that I could find the joy in it and pursue math at a higher level, so I decided to make it my college major. Not only did the lessons Mr. D taught me make math more gratifying, I knew majoring in math would promise me a broader career selection no matter what next step I chose to take, and that having a math degree would at least help me make a living after graduation.

But as a hipster dedicated to breaking Asian stereotypes, I thought math shouldn’t be the end.

Passionate About Piano

I started playing piano when I was 9, but I stopped in high school due to my heavy course load. I decided to pick piano back up in college because I figured that I would have more free time—and it was the BEST decision I’ve ever made.

During each piano lesson, I learned more about how music depicts our everyday life, and how it can constantly hit your emotional soft spot. But the more classes I took, the more frequently I asked myself, “Do I really know what music is?” That’s why I started taking music theory and history classes—not for my career goals, but because of my genuine interest in the subject matter.

Having two majors at the same time is not easy. However, it does have some nice side effects. For example, I’ve drawn a lot of recruiters’ attention because of my majors, as people are often happy sparing some time to hear the story behind my odd combination of music and math studies.

Making It Work for You

When choosing my majors, I managed to have a balance of personal and professional ambitions, but everyone is unique, and my personal experience might not be applicable to you.

However, I think the most important thing is to find the joy in what you’re learning. If you’re worried about finding a major or minor that you’re both passionate about and that can offer you opportunities down the line, here are a few tips:

  1. GO EXPLORE. Take some classes that you’ve always wanted to take but you didn’t think you’d be good at. How will you know whether you’re talented or not if you don’t even give it a try?
  2. TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS. You’re sure to have friends with different majors than you, so ask them what they love about their major. You never know—what they say might inspire you.
  3. CONSULT WITH YOUR PROFESSORS. Your professors have dedicated themselves to their fields of study, so take some time after class to ask them what their motivation is. You might find their insights incredibly helpful.
  4. GET HELP FROM CAREER CENTER. The career center offers services to help you figure out what field is best to utilize your talents. The staff at your career center can also provide you more information about the majors you’re interested in to help you make a more informed decision.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to make big choices and run with them. Even if you end up not liking the major you choose at first, you can always back up and go explore another discipline. Never stop trying – eventually you’ll find the right path for you.


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Chen Wang

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