October 5, 2020

ROSENBAND | Postpone Declaring Your Major Until You Are Ready

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I’m finally in a committed relationship. It’s the real deal, the forever-type of thing. You know how it goes. Sure, we’ve had our problems, but we’re here now and it’s working.

We started talking second semester freshman year and got more serious when we came back to campus as sophomores, but we were never exclusive or anything. When campus shut down due to the pandemic, we really lost touch and things sort of fizzled out. Our past is complicated, but whose isn’t? Now, as juniors, we’ve found each other again and decided to go all-in. My family and friends are so excited for us and as for me, I’ve never been happier.

My government major and I are finally official.

The tales of our majors are among the most complicated love stories on this campus — on-again, off-again, until there’s no choice but to get married. A lot of students come to Cornell already knowing exactly what they wanted to study — as if they came out of the womb wearing an ivy league sweatshirt and gripping a major application form. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had an answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” — except for a brief stint in the fifth grade, when I told my teacher I wanted to be an actuary — but I find those students, the ones who came to campus so firmly decided, a bit hard to trust. How will you tell if and when you need a divorce? Will you always wonder what could have been if you settle down too quickly?

Sure, many people have very particular passions which is largely why and how they got to Cornell in the first place — and don’t get me wrong, I wish I too had a guiding star. But maybe it should be less of a “I need to be a psychology major” and more of a “I have always loved emotionally analyzing the people around me,” or whatever it is that people who wind up being psychology majors love to do. When you get here, pre-this and pre-that are essentially just synonyms for pre-wealth. And now, we’ve gotten ourselves into a serious predicament where the biology majors can’t even differentiate themselves from many of the pre-med students.

I think waiting to declare your major is the smartest thing a Cornellian can do … granted you shouldn’t do what I did and hold out until the beginning of junior year. Just last week my professor asked me, “Odeya, how did you get away with it for this long?” I honestly have no clue. The problem with waiting as long as I did is that your options become more limited later on. If my goal is to be able to take wines at some point before I graduate, any delay to meet my major requirements will inhibit that possibility. I imagine that the balance to declaring your major might lie somewhere in the middle of sophomore year. Not too early and not too late, it’s just right.

Cornell likes to give the impression that this is a school that truly cherishes the undeclared students who they imagine are floating around different departments like fairy princesses, until they find what they love and strike their magic wand. In reality, Cornell is a school where being undecided past freshman fall isn’t “a good look.” Afterall, have you ever tried to ask a student in the college of ILR what their major is? We treat our majors as if they’re descriptors of our personalities, and, mind a few exceptions, it’s relatively difficult to take courses across colleges because the college-specific credit count is so high. I’m not suggesting that this heavy focus on majors is necessarily a fault of Cornell, but I think we ought to realize that if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

Ultimately, this is less about a major and more about a mindset. Even if you’ve wanted to be a hedge fund manager since you were six years old, you owe it to yourself to explore all Cornell has to offer before declaring your economics major. Thank goodness for distribution requirements— you never know what passion you might stumble upon next.
Odeya Rosenband is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Passionfruit runs every other Tuesday this semester.