Should I Go to College if I Don’t Know What I Want to Study?

Jun 19, 2018

“Should I go to college if I don’t know what I want to study?”

I hear this question a lot, and I truly don’t believe the answer is black and white.

Only you know what is best for you, but my advice would be to not rule out college just because you’re unsure.

Seventy-five percent of students change their major at least once, and 20-50% of students enter college as “undecided” (source). All of that to say, you’re not alone. Quite frankly, knowing what you want to do with your life at 18 is pretty rare, so give yourself grace and time to figure it out.

Something that has become very apparent to me as I’ve gotten older is that, unless you’re pursuing a very specific degree, like nursing for example, you could wind up in a thousand different professions. So many businesses today simply want to see that you worked hard, got a degree, and have some experience in your field of expertise.

In addition, college is about so much more than getting a degree. College grows and stretches you as a person. It is where many people really figure out who they are. You’re exposed to so many different types of people with different perspectives and life experiences. It is an opportunity to begin thinking critically about the world and developing your own opinions and beliefs.

Lastly, college is a fresh start. You are given the choice to either leave your past behind or bring it with you, sharing it with your new friends and classmates. Sometimes this clean slate is what a lot of people need to begin their adulthood thriving.

A lot of high school students assume that college is naturally the next step after high school. It is for a lot of people – it was for me. However, it is absolutely not the only option.

After studying for twelve years, maybe you need a year or two to take a step back. That is completely understandable. “Gap years” are extremely common in some parts of the U.S. and all over Europe. You could start working and begin saving money – an especially great idea if you will be solely responsible for paying for college in the future. You could travel in the United States or abroad. You could dive into your favorite hobby. There are many, many options.

I have heard it said, “If you take a gap year, you’re not going to want to go back to school.” I don’t necessarily agree with this. Everyone is different, and I feel like being more financially stable or having seen parts of the world would give me more incentive to start studying once again. Truly, you will grow as a person in any situation where you are faced with something you gave never experienced before. And that is what matters.

All in all, there is no “right way” and “wrong way” to go about things. As someone who thoroughly enjoys college and learning in general, I personally would recommend pursing some sort of a degree, but only when the time is right for you.

Whatever you decide, be intentional and deliberate about your decision. If you choose college right out of high school, get started by taking some gen-eds, and if one class really interests you, sign up for another one like it. Talk to your professors. Pay attention to what gets your heart racing in life. Ask people how they got to where they are now and what they studied in college. Just start somewhere, and you will find your way. Don’t panic, and enjoy the process of learning who you are and what you love.

If you choose to take some time off after high school, enjoy this change. Don’t feel guilty for perhaps not following the same path as the classmates around you. Be confident in your decision and who you are. College will always be there, waiting for you if you decide that is what you want. No, college is not the only “noble” decision, and it is certainly not the only way to attain knowledge. Study and research the world on your own, engage in conversations and learn from those around you.

Don’t worry about making the “right decision.” Focus on making the decision right.

Carly Baumgartner

Hi, my name is Carly Baumgartner, and I am an upcoming junior at one of ICI’s private colleges, where I’m double majoring in Strategic Communications and Media Communications. My hobbies include traveling, writing, art, enjoying time on the lake, and spending time with people. I plan to go to graduate school to pursue a career in social justice. Until then, I’ll be sitting here, blogging and sipping my Diet Coke.