What to Do When Mid-Undergraduate Crises Strike
Whether it’s by changing your major, chopping your hair off or transferring schools, everyone experiences collegiate cold feet. Here’s how to cope.
By Katie Hovan, University of Miami
Maybe you’ve watched a movie about a successful businessman who quits his job and travels across the world.
Or perhaps you’ve watched Scott Disick’s downward spiral broadcast on the Kardashian’s reality TV show. More realistically, you could have witnessed your next-door neighbor trade in his Honda Accord for a candy apple red convertible in an effort to reinvent his identity. Whatever the case may be, one message is true: American culture perpetuates the idea that midlife crises happen fairly often in the adult world.
That being said, a midlife crisis is a term commonly used to describe adults who are going through a rough patch in their personal or professional lives. People collectively associate these crises with older men whose lives seem to take a sudden turn, causing them to make changes in their appearances or lifestyles.
And now, you might be asking what any of this has to do with college students.
The truth is that students can actually relate to those middle-aged men, and it’s all thanks to the term I’ve come to know as the “mid-undergraduate crisis.” Like its mid-life cousin, a mid-undergraduate crisis basically marks the point in every college student’s career when they pause for a moment and think, “What the f*ck am I doing with my life?”
Students’ worries about the future can stem from variety of different areas. While financial success is the most common worry, sometimes a student can even question their major on the basis of whether or not the career they’re preparing for will ultimately make them happy.
Mid-undergrad crises don’t discriminate, either. Both an aspiring biomedical engineer and a hotel manager can spend an equal amount of time questioning their majors or future careers. It’s a natural part of college.
Maybe such a crisis hasn’t hit you yet, or maybe you think this is all a myth. But, according to an argument made by student employment coordinator Liz Freedman at Butler University, “An estimated 75 percent of students change their major at least once before graduation.” This number emphasizes the fact that the majority of students will have a mid-undergrad crisis to some extent during college, causing them to change majors.
Personally, my first, true crisis occurred during the spring of my sophomore year. I slowly realized over the first few weeks of the semester that I hadn’t done anything remotely helpful in preparing myself for a career within my major, and quite frankly, I didn’t even know if I enjoyed the curriculum anymore. Ultimately, I changed my major and dragged my dad out to Barnes & Noble so he could spend a small fortune on an LSAT book just in case I needed a plan B. Law school seemed like a great alternative to fall back on.
But here’s where a mid-undergrad crisis gets even trickier: It can occur at almost any point in your college career, and it’s not necessarily a “one and done” situation.
I had already survived turbulent times prior to my hysterical run to Barnes & Noble. During my freshman year, I even went so far as to cut and dye my hair until I was virtually unrecognizable.
(Side note: Altering your hairstyle is probably #1 on the list of things not to do when you’re stressed out. I learned the hard way.)
I even ended up transferring schools after my freshman year once I realized that my initial choice wasn’t where I belonged. Thus, my series of mid-undergrad crises was only just beginning. And though my experiences may be some of the more extreme examples among college students, I’m proof that with a little perseverance, anyone can power through their lowest moments in college no matter when or how frequently they occur.
Ironically, when panic strikes, the most important thing to think about is the big picture.
I don’t mean the big picture as in a professional future, but rather the bigger picture of one’s life. Things do get better, and there are always more opportunities waiting to be discovered over time.
It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” was rejected countless times before a publishing company agreed to publish it. Today, she has sold hundreds of millions of copies of her novels and has even seen them transform into films. Walt Disney’s supposed “lack of creativity” led him to be fired from his job at a newspaper. Today, his talent is ever-present in movies, theme parks and cartoons that bring magic to children across the world.
Realistically, the chance of attaining success like Rowling or Disney us unlikely for most people, making their failures seem irrelevant. But the point of these overused stories is that success is not instant. Arguably the greatest authors and artists in the world have faced long roads with major setbacks.
So whether a student lands their dream job after graduation or chooses to continue their education in graduate or medical school, it’s crucial to remember that there are multiple routes for every destination. Few people who take road trips across the U.S. use the same route or make stops at the same exact places, and this concept applies to life in general. The journey is just as important as the destination. And though there’s no guarantee the journey will be smooth and effortless, there’s no use in losing hope or stressing out over issues that don’t yet exist.
Grown adults go through midlife crises all the time, and they survive even if they make some strange decisions in the process (I’m looking at you, 2007 Britney Spears.) College students will, too. In the meantime, work hard and enjoy the time that’s left before college is over. If you feel like changing your major, transferring schools or even buying an LSAT book, do it. There’s no harm in making changes to your original plan and keeping your options open. But if you choose to ignore all of this advice, there’s only one, true take-away from this article: Chill out, and stay away from any hair salons.