How I Chose My Major (But Not Really)

This post was initially going to be about the fact that I considered myself more of a philosophically-minded person than scientifically-minded one and how odd I found that when most people associate math with science. But the more I delve into my memories, the harder it is for me to justify such a narrative. So in contrast we have a different story emerging, one where I didn’t have some clear idea of who I was and what I was going to do or try to do. So instead I want to look back at high school, while I was deciding with which major to apply to college, and having narrowed things down to five choices: philosophy, political science, economics, physics and mathematics.

With mathematics, I thought I was kind of good at it. I actually didn’t know what actual math was and when I took my first math class in undergrad, it was eye-opening. But it’s worth noting that the math I had in high school wasn’t terribly interesting to me with the exception of some geometry.

Physics was a little bit more fun, but it was more that the computations made sense. It had a bit of fun experiments, but I feel awkward around making measurements and actually doing stuff.

The philosophical side was formally underdeveloped. I had read some Plato when I was young, but that was about it. Even now I feel underread in philosophy, well mostly because I am. But it is important to note that what compelled me the most about this subject was the awe-inspiring basis in deductive reasoning. It’s difficult to discuss let alone defend one’s own opinions and intuition. But you knew where things stood with reason and it gave grounds for thinking the way I did. It had a confidence building effect. I wanted to develop something in which I felt had a kernel of ability.

I had an interest in political science, mostly in international affairs. I had diplomatic aspirations, which in retrospect seems like a bad idea. The manner in which political structures function is of academic interest to me now in a limited way, but I actually had political aspirations at one point and now this seems completely foreign. I can’t quite pinpoint why I thought this was a possibility.

I took a course in economics and thought it was great. There was something compelling about having formulas and numbers involved in the whole endeavor. I thought this combined subjects in which I had a little bit of talent and a subject in which I had personal interest. I had wanted to know how the economy (and more generally society) functioned.

What compelled me the most was that I imagined this whole thing on a line with social science on one end and the natural sciences on the other (and math was on the far extreme of this end) and here in the middle, as a natural compromise, was economics.

So that’s how I came to choose economics as my major. But then I actually went to college.


About minimalrho
Unemployed guy with a PhD in math.

2 Responses to How I Chose My Major (But Not Really)

  1. Sayantan says:

    Great post. I could connect to it so well that I read it twice. I, too, had undergone a similar decision making period; only in my case the choices were physics, chemistry, mathematics and computer science. Regards.

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