Ask our ambassadors: Choosing a major

When considering what I wanted to study in college, I found myself struggling to choose one specific major. English had always been my favorite class and many of my extracurriculars focused on writing, but I also enjoyed Spanish and learning about cultures other than my own.

I had also taken a Cornell summer course in which I studied the history and politics of the modern Middle East. It was impossible for me to pick one particular major that I definitively wanted to study, and I knew that in Arts & Sciences I would have the freedom to explore different classes, majors and activities. 

Although I applied to Cornell as undecided, I don’t think I truly understood what this kind of exploration would look like until I arrived. Fundamentally, Arts & Sciences requires breadth. Freshman year I organized my academic schedule to simultaneously satisfy myriad distribution requirements while also sampling courses in different disciplines that piqued my interest. By the end of my freshman year I had learned that I most enjoyed psychology, government and history, but still felt conflicted about which direction I wanted to go in. 

Psychology and government were two departments that I had no experience with, but found interesting from a distance in high school. The introductory courses challenged me, teaching me how to write, think and study in a unique way for the respective discipline. While I was a confident writer in English classes, and familiar with writing historical analysis, I was new to understanding psychology experiments and writing policy papers. 

While at first my natural comfort and relative ease in the transition to college history classes pushed me to think of declaring history as a major, my further exploration this past year has allowed me to adjust to the expectations of government classes and illustrated that I am most fulfilled when learning about seemingly distant worlds, both geographically and historically.

Through my multifaceted exploration within Arts & Sciences I’ve learned that my intellectual curiosity does not depend on the name of the major that I choose. My experiences in history and government classes have allowed me to wholeheartedly believe that I will be content with either path I choose, or eventually even double major in both subjects.

Fertig is an Arts & Sciences student ambassador.

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