Choose your major

… then switch it. And switch again.

I’m going to speak to a bunch of first years at tonight’s Choose Your Major workshop, as a well-deserved veteran of choosing majors. As usual, I have no prepared speech, only a few ideas that I want to talk about. So I figured blogging them down will help me not freak out on stage.

Choosing the major is a tricky business. How do you know what the major really is before you study it for a term or two? Who should you talk to to find out whether a particular major is right for you? What’s the difference between Pharmacology, Physiology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Chemistry, Biology, Biotechnology, Biophysics, Biopsychology, Pharmacy, Chemical Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering? Blah!

My story may be complicated, but it has a simple moral: don’t freak out, man.

I was first introduced to the “hiearchy of life science majors” in first year, in which the average cut-off of each major is ranked mercilessly. If you know what I am talking about, you are an honest UBC student. But I want everyone to scratch this out when they choose his or her major. I think people should choose the major that they are interested in, instead of how high their marks are or even what the job prospect is. If you are truly interested in a major, chances are, you will have the best job prospect there.

Anyway, I made up my mind on Microbiology when I finished first year, for no good reason. All I knew about microbiology was that it involves the study of microorganisms, and that it’s easier to get in than pharmacology and physiology. The first microbiology course offered at UBC is in 2nd year, you see.

Then I took up a computer science course in the summer, because I thought it would be cool. And sure enough, it was the one of the coolest learning experience I’ve had. I can describe my facination in bloody details that only fellow CS enthusiasts will appreciate, and I’m not recruiting for CS tonight. So, long story short, I chose the Combined Major in Microbiology and Comp Sci.

It turned out my enjoyed the mix of Microbiology and Comp Sci a lot, but the study of bacteria wasn’t nearly as interesting as human immunology. So in late 2nd year, I switched major. There wasn’t a “Combined Major in Pharmacology and Comp Sci”, but there was a wildcat “Combined Major in _____ and Comp Sci”, so I made my own combined major.

That wasn’t the end of the story. I felt that I am getting a bad deal out of the Combined Pharm and CS, because I needed to take the full course load of a Pharmacology Major anyway (Combined Majors were supposed to be less than a full major in either subject), and discussion with my mentor, I made a final switch in the middle of 3rd year: Double Major in Pharmacology and CS.

So, what you choose now really isn’t going to decide whether you live or die. Constantly asking yourself “what do I like?” and adjusting to it is the way to go.


5 thoughts on “Choose your major

  1. haha, you would have lots to say to first years on how to choose major. Like you said, no need to prepare speech, just need to simply share your on experience on the stage, then it’s powerful enough.
    How did it go?

  2. Haha… thanks guys! Yeah, it went pretty well. I think the talk actually went better than what I wrote here… I threw some jokes, you see 😛
    I love these events; mingling with grownups = good practice for growing up. Mingling with kids = good for staying young. And yeah, 20 is about the right age to want to do both.

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