TV shows like Bones, House, and Grey’s Anatomy make everyone want to work in science or medicine and I’m convinced those shows make me want to want to be a doctor. Not only this, but STEM majors appear at the top of every “best majors” list. At every school I visited, at every interview or panel, and on every form I filled out, I claimed to be a potential biology major. I was going to be just like Bones or Meredith Grey and solve mysteries and save lives. If you asked me my senior year of high school, I would have told you I was going to major in biology and that I didn’t know exactly what I would do with that major, but I knew I was pretty good at science and that it was a “good career path” with promising prospects.
One of the best things about a liberal arts education, like the one I’m getting here at St. Lawrence, is that the school is focused on developing you as a complete student and well-rounded person. The distribution requirements allow you to explore interests outside of your field of study and often open doors you would have never ventured toward. The courses I focused on my first semester freshman year were hardly an indication of what I would major in or what internships I would complete along the way.
My first semester, I was enrolled in our First-Year Program course, General Biology, General Chemistry, and Intro to Dramatic Scripts - an English and Performance and Communication Arts (PCA) cross-listed course. I thought the Dramatic Scripts class would be fun and one that would satisfy a distribution requirement. It turned out to be a really interesting and educational class that I absolutely loved. While we were dissecting worms and frogs in Biology Lab, we were dissecting character development and themes in Dramatic Scripts. I found I learned more from our class discussions than the lectures in Biology and Chemistry. I loved that we were free to think abstractly and give different interpretations so long as we had the textual evidence to support our claims.
This got me thinking, if I love what I’m doing in this class, why am I trying to major in anything else? Sure, I enjoyed the challenge of biology and chemistry but when I thought about it, I didn’t actually want to be Meredith Grey. I didn’t want to work endless hours in a hospital if I wasn’t that passionate about what I was doing. And while it was challenging to understand and memorize the material in these courses, it was a different challenge to think critically about a script or a piece of literature.
The following semester I dropped biology and chemistry because my AP credits transferred and I was allowed to skip the spring semesters. I enrolled in English 250, a course needed for the English major and the gateway to any upper level English course. I knew right then and there that my days as a potential science major were over. I also decided to try my hand at economics, again to satisfy a distribution requirement. It was an 8:50 a.m. class and there wasn’t a day I wanted to skip or sleep through the class. It was something completely different than what I had spent my entire high school career doing. I was no longer focused on solving mysteries and saving lives, but I was focused on what I liked and what I wanted. My English courses followed one another in quick succession, each one better than the last, learning more about literature and where my passion intersects with the classroom. I jumped at the opportunity to become a business in the liberal arts and English major to my plan and just like that, I found that I was on a completely different course than I had set out to be.
I’m thankful I had the support and the opportunity to change the path I was on. It’s not that a STEM path was a bad choice, but it wasn't the choice for me. I would much rather spend my time learning and doing something I love. The goal of St. Lawrence and a liberal arts education is to make students deep thinkers, problem solvers, strong communicators, lifelong learners, and citizens that benefit society upon graduation. Your major will equip you with these skills regardless of the track you’re on.