Credit: Rosie Padilla / EdSource
Sonoma State University

Ever since I can remember, I had conversations with my family about going to college and the variety of majors I could take. Before I knew it, my eyes were set on any career involving criminal justice, whether in law enforcement or as an attorney. These choices partially came from seeing many injustices across the U.S. involving police brutality. I wanted to use my voice and my educational training to make a difference.

Another huge factor in choosing a major were the expectations and initial goals I had planned with my family.

When I was accepted into Sonoma State University, I entered my freshman year undeclared with the goal to eventually declare criminal justice as my major. But deep down I was uncertain. I had not given myself time to fully process and evaluate my true interests on my own terms. Still, I took some required courses to enter the criminal justice program.

The pandemic postponed my plans to declare my major. This unexpected postponement, however, gave me time to fully reflect and reevaluate what I envisioned.

I became more honest with myself, asking one important question: “Do I want to continue something I know I would be unhappy with, or explore and find what works for me?” From that point on the answer was clear, but not easy. Ultimately, I decided not to pursue criminal justice.

I then became worried about how this change would impact graduating on time. Not knowing what I wanted to do next could easily derail my plans to graduate in four years.

Thankfully, I came across a major which didn’t undermine my four-year goal. Communication and media studies immediately checked all the right boxes, giving me the opportunity to learn and explore a variety of fields involving media, as well as offering more job opportunities if I dabbled in multiple areas. Writing, media, creative expression through film, photography and others have always piqued my interest. And, I could see myself using my voice to make a difference in many ways with communications as a major.

My family’s approval means everything to me. Before talking to my family, I was worried they would be disappointed. When I talked with my family, they all reassured me I had their full support in whatever major I chose. The only thing that mattered to them was my passion for it and my happiness.

While this was everything I wanted to hear, making my decision felt as though I was on a complete detour from set plans. I naively thought I was the only college student in the world who had experienced this. That was not true.

According to a 2019 survey by software company Ellucian, 51% of students are unsure of their major when they enroll in college. It found that more than half of students change their major at least once. It is common to feel some uncertainty about the future, especially as young adults who haven’t really entered what my professors call “the real work world.”

Still, there would be other factors that worried me. Compared with criminal justice, a major and career in media presented some challenges: Some early-career struggles I considered were unpredictable salaries, being more bound to working in big cities and the difficulty of entering such a competitive career field.  But the same can be said for many majors, and I was willing to work diligently and use my educational training to pursue a career I was eager to get into.

Weighing my decision was driven by multiple influences. Over the years, I saw sports journalists like Doris Burke, Malika Andrews and legendary filmmakers like Spike Lee who are each recognizable because of their work and what they bring to each industry. Because of them and my interest in media, I wanted to get involved. I envisioned myself being a part of my school university’s newspaper and taking film- and photography-related courses. The curriculum helped me keep my options open. Naturally, I find myself drawn to communications as a major.

Considering everything helped me to navigate what would best work for me in the long run.

For others, I realize the answers to finding or changing your major may not be that simple. Obstacles might occur along the way that may discourage your aspirations. But as difficult as it can be, choose what works best for you and not others. As I am entering the final stretch of my senior year, I can confidently say that I am happy with my choice and even more excited to see where this major takes me.


Marie’Sa Rumsey is a fourth-year communication and media student at Sonoma State University and is a member of EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps.

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  1. Maria 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    This is one of the best stories I’ve ever read. Her writing skills are immaculate and her story is very touching