The Definitive “What Major?!” Response Post

Given the nature of this blogging position, and my job as an internal transfer mentor, I’ve fielded a lot of questions from fellow students on a wide range of topics…and a common theme among inquiries has to do with Cornell college and major selection.

With 7 colleges at Cornell and 82 majors,  I’m a unique person to ask this question to, because–as evidenced by my posts, I shuffled around a bit at Cornell before finding the business program that best suited me (and that I’d come to love). Honestly, I wish I had a surefire, definite answer to give when people ask for assistance with the perfect program. But, because a lot of your college experiences are random, there’s no way to predict your happiness. So, I have absolutely no authority to tell you what major/school/program at Cornell is the “right” choice.

What I CAN do, though, instead of recommending specific majors, is to provide anecdotal examples from friends/Cornellians I know regarding their program/major selection. Hopefully you see yourself in one of these people, but if not–at least I’ve given you some things to think about. Plus, at least in my opinion, it’s inherently interesting to hear about other peoples’ lives and the decisions they’ve made.

Oh, and a disclaimer before I begin–this is PURELY anecdotal, so the fallacies of generalizations apply.

So here we go:

  •  One friend I know transferred into Cornell as a communication major, but realized too late into her curriculum that she had a passion for HumEc’s Design and Environmental Analysis program. While it was too late for her to change her major to her newfound passion, she ended up taking loads of classes in the area and will be pursuing a masters in the field after some post-graduate work experience. See, it wasn’t the end of the world that she didn’t have the 100% perfect undergrad major.
  • Another friend has pursued a dual degree in Art and Psychology (which you can do between AAP and Arts and Sciences), but realized 3 years in that he wanted a more technical education from Cornell–because he developed a passion for digital design and coding. He packed his last few undergrad semesters at Cornell with high level computer science courses, and is now sticking around for a masters in computer science.
  • Every once in a while you get the “wait a second…I’m a New York State resident, and I’m in Arts and Sciences majoring in biology/information science…why don’t I just switch to CALS and save a crapload of money with the subsidized tuition?!?” scenario.
  • If you’re applying to a unique program like Industrial and Labor Relations or the Hotel School, make sure you know what you’re getting into by taking a nitty-gritty look at the curriculum. Look, ILR and Hotel can certainly be generalized as ‘business’ programs, but if you’re not damn sure that labor/the workplace is your academic passion, you’re not going to enjoy Labor Law, Collective Bargaining, Labor Econ or Labor History. Same goes with the Hotel School; when you apply, you’re making a profound commitment to forego most of the traditional “college” curriculum for 22 required hospitality courses. I’ve talked to way too many prospective AEM transfers from majors that they realize now they’re not too fond of.
  • When do you stop adding majors? I had a suitemate one year that was probably the most brilliant person I’ve ever met–a math, chemistry, and physics triple major that takes >25 credits each semester in courses like graduate quantum mechanics, and aces them. He’s probably picked up a few majors since we last spoke. I’ll probably read about him in the papers after he’s found the cure for AIDS in 2 years. I’m not sure how much free time he has, but God bless ‘im. Seriously.
  • Occasionally you hear about that one course’s that’s so amazing that people declare their majors in the field after taking it. While I haven’t taken all of these, I can tell you based on conversations that some of these courses are GOVT1817: Intro to International Relations with Katzenstein, PSYCH 1101: Intro to Psych (but Maas, the legend, left–I’m not sure if the new professor is good), PAM 2300: Intro to Policy Analysis with Avery (I’ve heard she’s fantastic, but the class is difficult), and INFO/COMM 2450: Communication and Technology with Hancock. Others can chime in with math, science, and engineering courses since I don’t have a ton of experience there.
  • No, pre-meds, don’t feel pressured to major in bio/chem because it looks good for medical school. From what friends have told me, admissions committees don’t care. I can think off the top of my head of a French major and an AEM major that are pre-med…and they’re totally okay since they’re taking the required medical courses.
  • I know a few people that transferred out of Engineering to less time-sucking/stressful programs. An engineering degree can be a great thing since employers love quantitative skills, but at the end of the day, y’only got 4 years in college…so if the academics are hampering you from doing the extracurriculars/things you wanna do, as they felt, its the right move to switch out.
  • I had a friend in an interesting scenario: she was basically done with her English major early, but was concerned about employability/job prospects. So what could she do with her time left on campus? She examined lots of minors on campus, but in the end picked up an economics major, which she could fit in easily with her schedule.
  • A bunch of people I know stumbled on, and now love, the new information science major on campus as an alternative to traditional computer science; it explores the social/human sides of computing in addition to programming. Many of them already have sick jobs lined up with big-name tech companies. If I wasn’t spending the semester in DC, I would totally would have a minor in the field.

So, prospective freshmen/undecided students…there you go! Hopefully, through these anecdotes, you now have a little bit of foresight into possible actions/routes to take. Will this help you directly? Meh, probably not, but it might stick with you longer than the “it’ll come to you!”-esque advice you hear regularly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *