Tia Westmoreland | Contributing Writer
To incoming STEM majors— it is normal to come to college with worries, questions and anxiety about what exactly your studies will have in store for you, and if you can handle the workload. In fact, these are concerns that every freshman will experience during their first year in college.
While this is a general concern amongst all freshmen, more STEM majors have fallen prey to the impostor syndrome: an invasive feeling of self-doubt and insecurity about one’s major. Such impulsive feelings that go unaddressed can cause freshmen to switch their majors by the end of the school year. If you find yourself questioning your abilities to juggle your studies and extracurricular activities when it comes to your major— even though you might feel isolated— you are certainly not alone, and you too can persevere.
Justin Shaifer, a graduating marine and environmental science major and newly elected Student Government Association President reflects on his STEM experience as one of great adversity. He too experienced a high-level of uncertainty when deciding on whether to keep or change his major his freshman year. He feared he would not be able to juggle his demanding major and his extra-curricular activities. However, he faithfully believes these fears subsided once he realized that being a STEM major was more of a mental game than anything else.
“Once I had it in my mind that I wanted to make certain grades in all of my classes and be a part of organizations on campus, I was more than willing to make the sacrifices to do both of these things simultaneously. Upon doing that, I started to see positive results and got rid of any negativity around me. In doing all of this, I made comfort out of my discomfort.”
As a STEM major, it is important to remain organized with the workload from your classes and extracurricular activities. It is not rare to see STEM majors who are heavily involved in school organizations, for many students have done it. Justin Shaifer also said, “It is important never to sell yourself short, you can shoot for the stars no matter how difficult your major may be, just always keep positive people around you and the lines of communication open.”
Lines of communication within the STEM program are essential to survival: never be afraid to ask for help or support. Some incoming STEM students might believe that they have to come to college knowing all of the answers, which is incorrect. Never feel like you have to struggle through your classes alone because your peers or professors feel as if “you should already know the answer.”
Kyle Burney, a sophomore physics major and a member of The Society of Physics Students can definitely relate to this feeling.
“Sometimes I would find myself getting stuck on problems in certain classes and I would ask for guidance. At times my professors were not receptive to my questions because I was a physics major, meaning I should have already known the answer. Even though this was frustrating, I continued to ask questions because if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to fully understand the material.”
A part of being able to juggle your workload is realizing when you need help and seeking it! Tutoring is always available on campus whenever you need it. Once you get the help you need in your difficult classes, you will find that managing your workload alongside with extracurricular activities will be much easier.
Overall, it is easy to become a STEM major but staying one is a different story. You must be a determined and focused student who will never steer away from why you chose your specific major in the first place. Jalan Richardson, a graduating chemistry major and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated knows it is not always easing having a science major.
“Any STEM field is challenging, time consuming and just requires a lot. So, when you see your friends with ‘easier’ majors, it is like ‘dang I want to be like them,’ but you have to come to the realization that you chose your specific area of study for a reason. Whether that reason is to find a cure for cancer, construct better machinery, or find a way to make something with chemical alternatives, you have to decide what’s best for you.”
Even though it might be tempting to abandon your major when the nights get longer and the classes get harder, never lose sight of your original vision. Ashleigh Rawls, a sophomore double majoring in biology and Biochemistry, and a member of Freddy T. Davy Honors College has remained optimistic about her choice of study. Despite her demanding schedule and her heavy involvement in student activities, she has not run away from her two very complex majors. “I am STEM. STEM is me. I refuse to see myself any other way,” she said.
In the end, the amount of success one has pertaining to their academic career in the STEM program depends on how confident they are as a student. If you believe in yourself and your abilities to persevere through your courses while managing your extracurricular activities, you will make the proper sacrifices and adjustments.
The key to success is coming to college with an open mind free of fear and insecurity about your major. Make sure you are entering your working environment with a positive outlook. With the right foundation and proper amount of confidence, you will be able to succeed in any major while simultaneously enjoying the college experience.