Many Paths: On Choosing and Celebrating New Majors

Next week kicks off the College of Arts & Sciences’ annual Major-Minor Welcome Week, during which departments meet with newly-declared majors to celebrate their decision. The week will include a series of sessions hosted by departments and programs throughout the week to officially welcome the sophomores into their community and share important information about the road ahead. The Olin Library will also have a welcome table where students can learn more about the libraries’ staff and services available to them as they embark on their major or minor, and the Career Center will have Career Peer advisors on hand to talk to ArtSci students about recent career outcomes for alums in that field and how to start the job or internship search.

Matthew DeVoll, an assistant dean and the organizer of the event, says, "Personal connections are so important to feeling at home at WashU. The ArtSci Major-Minor Welcome Week is a wonderful opportunity for sophomores to get to know professors, staff, and other students with whom they'll be working for the next two years. It's also a great way to get helpful information for making plans."

Some students come to WashU with a specific academic track in mind, but for many, the path is less straightforward. No matter when the final decision is made, choosing a major often involves a number of steps and insights along the way. Four seniors share their stories about how they ended up choosing what to study.

Judah Burstein, LA’17
Majors: Film and Media Studies, Psychological & Brain Sciences
Minor: Writing
I always knew I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, so I thought a film and media studies major seemed natural. I officially declared the major my first semester after my "Intro to Film Studies" professor presented a profound visual analysis of Citizen Kane. Initially, I had a computer science second major because I never thought that a career in entertainment would be practical. The following semester, a few minutes after I got my first offer for an internship in the entertainment industry, I dropped my computer science second major. And when I decided I wanted to be a talent agent, I thought it might help to know a bit about people, so I added a second major in psychological and brain sciences. I just got an internship that accepts 30/~4000 applicants at the leading talent agency in the world, so I guess I made the right choice.

Isabelle Carbone, LA’17
Major: Psychological & Brain Sciences
Minors: Spanish and Biology
I am pre-med, but I did not start that way. As a freshman, I entered thinking I would study PNP and originally declared that as my major. However, even before declaring PNP as my major, I had begun to thinking about combining psychology and biology after taking Psych 100B my freshman fall. I eventually did switch my major to psychology in December of my sophomore year after deciding I wanted to study abroad in Santiago, Chile through the WashU program the spring of my junior year. In the process of deciding to study abroad, I declared a Spanish minor and also decided to study biology as a minor, as well. So, long story short, I found my combination of majors and minors through a slow process based on my interests in psychology, in studying in a Spanish-speaking country, and in medicine. Now as a senior, I am very happy with my chosen course of study!

Andrea Gonzalez, LA’17
Majors: Latin American Studies, Anthropology
I started out at WashU as many others have: a pre-med student. During my first semester, I had decided I would be a Latin American studies and chemistry double major. It was not until the next semester when I enrolled in "Introduction to Cultural Anthropology" that I began to have doubts about wanting to go to medical school. By the end of my third semester at WashU, after having taken two additional anthropology courses, I realized that my calling was not to be a doctor, but instead the person that helps people in need have an easier, more affordable, and direct path to not only the doctor but also to any other professional health services that they do not have access to. In many Latin American countries, the access to healthcare is deplorable, and while the healthcare system is improving every day, there is still much to be done. I have always wanted to be in a field that would allow me to serve Latinx communities, and I had finally found it: public health. My anthropology major has helped teach me about healthcare systems and how to improve them, and my Latin American studies major has influenced the areas I would want to focus on in the future.

Umang Parikh, LA’17
Major: Biology—Genomics and Computational Biology track
Minor: Finance
The summer before I declared my major, I was part of a research project that used statistics to analyze large amounts of genomics data. The data was disorganized, and I spent a lot of time teaching myself to code so I could write programs to make consolidation and analysis of the data easier. The next semester, I found out there was a track under biology tailored to teaching those very skills. I loved being a part of that project, so I knew I found the major for me. As for my finance minor, my dad taught me about investing when I was a kid, and I wanted to continue with that in college