Dropping One, Not Dropping Out

After my parents and my advisor both excitedly agreed with my decision, I realized that I was the only person forcing myself to get two majors.

By Elizabeth Rourk, University of New Haven


There I was, sitting in my first of three advising appointments for the week, adding the cost of the additional credits I would have to take every semester to finish two majors and a minor in four years.

When my advisor told me I should I take a logic course and an economics course, she thought she was suggesting helpful electives. Instead, she was ruining the schedule I had planned over a year in advanced.

With my bag weighed down with course catalogues and my mind sagging below the feeling of impending doom, I walked out of her office. It was just two semesters ago that I had it all planned out—every class carefully plotted in an Excel document to make sure I would graduate on time and get into the best law school possible. I had it all figured out, and I set my mind to accomplish it.

Now, a little over a year later and more sleep deprived than ever, I am realizing that just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should.

My planner is constantly filled to the margins with classwork for the eighteen credits I’m taking, assignments for both of my internships, marching band rehearsals and meetings with the three other student organizations I’m involved with. I like to think that my color-coded planner will help me get everything done, but fitting more than four hours of sleep at a time into my schedule continuously proves to be a struggle.

Standing at the crosswalk waiting for the light to change, I finally asked myself the question that I hadn’t let myself ask since coming to college. Why was I doing this? Was I doing this for me, or was I doing this to sound impressive to others?

I used to let myself believe that two majors meant double the career opportunities, but having so many classes meant I was turning down opportunities to write, which had been my dream since learning hold a pencil without stabbing myself.

But to me, being an aspiring writer sounded awfully similar to the kids I babysit for telling me they want to president.

I would not let myself want it, because I never believed it could happen, and sounded far less impressive than saying I’m planning to go to a T-14 law school.

I went to a high school where it was the norm to be taking four Advanced Placement classes, doing two varsity sports and being president of an academic club. A suburban town where parents had their seventh graders enrolled in ACT Prepatory courses and college acceptance letter season tore friendships apart.

Graduating with nearly six hundred students, we almost all had the same goal—to get into the best schools possible. Now, two years into college, I have a hard time ridding myself of the habit of academic competition. But when I realized that I put more stock in what I could tell people as opposed to my own happiness, I knew it was time to make a change. So what if I was “only an English major”? I would be an English major who was excited to go to class and hopeful about what the future holds.

It was scary, terrifying even. Once the thought got into my mind I couldn’t get it out. Every mind-numbing word read from my dozen-pound Civil Procedure textbook painted a clearer image in my head of the life I could have. One of sleeping more than four hours a night, not having to take six classes a semester and maybe even being able to take an elective, a term that had never been part of my vocabulary.

A life in which accepting an internship wouldn’t mean giving up the precious time I had to sleep and where phone calls to my parents didn’t have to be scheduled in advance.

More than anything else, it was a life where I wouldn’t be pitting myself against myself. Where the importance of experiences would outweigh the titles and majors littering my email signature, and where my happiness would come before my resume.

When I went to my final advising appointment that week with this idea in my head, I braced myself. What if my English advisor laughed at me and told me I didn’t have what it takes to make it? What if he tells me that I should actually be taking twenty-one credits a semester? Needless to say, these worries were without foundation.

When I pulled out my course catalogue, covered in different colored pen marks from my desperate attempts to fit all of the required courses in, and proceeded to tell him I was thinking of dropping my other major, he looked at me and told me that sounded like a good idea.

It was a Friday morning and the New England rain refused to let up, but regardless of the weather I sat at the picnic table outside the English building for twenty-five minutes while the mud stained my white sneakers and I explained my new life plan to my mom.

I told her I didn’t want to do two majors and I might not even want to go to law school anymore. That I was offered writing internships for the summer that I want to take, and that no, maybe my schedule wasn’t going to be as academically rigorous as it has previously been, but I would be getting real life experience for something I actually want to do. She was excited when I told her, saying I didn’t need two majors and that worrying what others thought of my academic accomplishments was asinine.

After garnering approval from my parents and my advisor, I realized that I had been creating my own demons all along. That I was the only person holding myself back from doing what I want in life by constantly comparing myself to others.

The uneasiness that came along with realizing I would no longer be following someone else’s path, rather that I would be making my own, was equally met with excitement for the opportunities I now had before me. Maybe this isn’t what I had planned for, but if everyone followed their life plan than no one would be excited when they won the lottery (except maybe my dad, who claims that is his life plan).

I’m starting to accept the fact maybe life isn’t about how well you can follow a plan, rather about how well you deal with the opportunities that you are given.