In high school, we figure out which courses we are good at or at least enjoy, and this sets in motion our opinions and interests for college, which likely influences our career path. I had a passion for whales, dolphins and elephants, but I chickened out a week before I started at the University of Maine and switched my major from Marine Biology to Environmental Studies. The major reason I switched: I was reading through Rachel Carson’s book The Edge of the Sea and I decided I didn’t want my life to be about memorizing Latin names. This might seem like a short-sighted, irrational decision, but I was much more comfortable with thinking about the environment and it’s connections as a whole rather than the specific details.
My first semester, I took an Intro to Geology course and a Human Population course among others. The Human Population course was taught by a rather dry lecturer, who read from the slides and was focused on the unsustainable growth of our population. I realized, I did not want to spend my life studying depressing material, frustrated with the lack of human intervention, or arguing with people about what was right for the environment. Geology was worlds different. It was about huge and tiny scales, processes, and reading rocks and landscape to understand their history. I loved it! It was science, measurable, fascinating, and I soaked up everything. Toward the end of the term, the geology professor said, “You seem to enjoy this material, you are enthusiastic and a good student, would you like to switch majors?” I had not thought of that possibility, and I lit up with excitement! I switched majors that week.
Geology is not what I intended on studying, but it had everything I wanted: mysteries, problems, science. If you know a high school student who is exploring their options, get them to talk with people in fields they might enjoy based on their skills and passions.