How I chose my major

To kick off this year's Major Welcome, junior Gaby Mendoza writes about how she explored different subjects and career paths to find her perfect fit.

When I first started at WashU, I told my parents I was going to be a communications major. What I didn’t realize then was that a bachelor’s in communications was only offered for professional and continuing education students through University College. So, for my first few semesters, I scrambled to pick a major — a process that forced me to wrestle with what I wanted to do as a career. 

Now that I’m a junior, I have a better idea of what I want to do after college. (Although it’s still a little difficult to explain when family or strangers ask.) But what I learned over the last three years is that it’s OK not to know exactly what you want to do after college. 

I started my first semester on the PreHealth track thinking that I might become a doctor or a nurse. But as soon as I took “General Chemistry I” I realized that I did not want to struggle through another semester of chemistry and a whole year of physics — even with help and support from friends and Peer-Lead Team Learning group.

Gaby Mendoza (right) with her sister, dad, and dog.

My next step was an old reliable: writing. I have always loved telling stories and I knew I wanted to use those skills in college and beyond. I tested out political science, but it was not my cup of tea. By the end of my freshman year, I was still searching for the right fit and decided to take an anthropology course.

As I listened to my anthropology lecturer discuss different medical perspectives in Latin America, I realized I had found my passion and the perfect combination of studying people, culture, and medicine. Now, as a junior, I’m majoring in anthropology on the global health and environment track and minoring in computer science and writing.

My exploration of several majors has opened doors to variety of different career paths. Early on, I thought I might be a doctor, lawyer, politician, diplomat, psychologist, medical anthropologist, or paleoanthropologist. Now, however, I think I want to pursue a career in journalism or technical writing. After soul-searching and exploring different career paths between my assignments, exams, and work, my love of writing and journalism never faded. While I was interested in many different fields, I think that journalism will best let me explore my different interests and allow me to pursue my passions.

It took me several years to figure out what I wanted to do. Often, my fear of not having a concrete future made me feel lost and isolated. Surrounded by pre-med students who know that their next step is medical school or other students who have had their careers planned since they were young, it can be intimidating to explore all the options.

It takes time to become comfortable with the uncertainty of what happens after college (or just over the summer). Even after deciding what I wanted to pursue, I have been ghosted and rejected from several internships. But as a friend told me, these rejections are simply redirections. As young people, we have our whole lives ahead of us to figure out what will make us fulfilled.

The annual Arts & Sciences Major Welcome takes place in March and connects newly declared students with department communities.