The week between semesters is one where many students learn about whether they got into the major of their first choice. Students tend to see their major as their identity in college.. they are an accounting major, or an economics manager or a management major. In large part, this is an exercise in “being.” Students think this label defines both their present and their future. When they learn they didn’t get into their major of first choice, students tend to think doors have been slammed shut and that their life is over.
This week we welcome about 700 students to the College and try to impress upon them the importance of having the right mindset at Welcome to the Majors. There we try to help newcomers understand that the goal of education is ACTION, not status. It’s about what you want to do, not what you want to be. Students tend to say things like: “I want to be an accountant.” or “I want to be a financial analyst.” When we follow that up with: ” What does an accountant or financial analyst do?” Students give us confused looks. They are stuck in “a being” mindset.
Doing is action oriented with a specific goal in mind– “I want to provide people with a unique entertainment experience.” Or ” I want to invest in the stock market so I can retire at 40.” Or, “I want to apply data analytic techniques to hockey player performance and build a better hockey team.” When you focus on action, you tend to think about the skills and extracurricular experiences you need to be good at what you want to do. Our aspiring hockey mogul needs a good grasp of statistics, a way to sell her value proposition to a general manager, and probably an internship where she can start to develop these skills and better understand the business. A lot of different classes in a lot of different majors and experiences can help get her there. The same with investing and retiring at 40… Would it surprise you to learn that many top- end financial firms hire physics majors because they have developed the skills necessary to work with very complex models.
There are a few instances where you need to be, before you are allowed to do. You can’t routinely do surgery without a medical degree and the proper credentialing. Similarly, it is possible to become a CPA without an accounting degree, but the most efficient path involves getting one. But these examples are the exception, especially for people who want to succeed in some aspect of business. So if you are one of those students who didn’t get into their major of first choice, remember what we told you at Welcome to the Majors. Focus on you want to do and find a way to acquire the skills and experiences necessary to do what you want to do. If the evidence suggests that you don’t have the ability to develop those skills, pivot and pursue something else you want to do. It’s a long career. No one has all their doors shut at age 20 or even age 40. Figure it out and charge on.