Quite Frankly

Hey Frankie, 

I can’t narrow down what I want to spend four years studying. It feels like nobody is guiding me in this important decision. Everyone tells me I have time, but it’s not helpful advice since I don’t know what to do with it. How can I pick the right classes and decide what to do with my life?


Flummoxed First-Year

Dear First-Year,

Quite frankly, you’ve come to the right college for this conundrum. People have probably already told you that Vassar is a place to explore broadly, as well as deeply. We have very few requirements, and thus more room to maneuver. 

I shared this question when I started college—and I still share it, from time to time. You will have many guides for your critical academic decisions, whether assigned to you by Vassar or discovered on Rate My Professors. You probably learned about official resources during Orientation.

Outside of those, pretty much everyone on campus has an idea of what course will change your life. That’s both freeing and debilitating. No one can fit all those must-takes into eight short semesters. And even if you could, they wouldn’t coalesce into a major (although, as Vassar’s homepage constantly reminds us, you can always design your own). Even more than that, they might not coalesce into a definite life path.

I can’t tell you unequivocally what you should do, but I can get you going. Academically, start by combing through the course catalog. Don’t get caught up in the idea of a particular major and correlate sequence combo; float above that for this first year. I like to make a scribble-covered page of my long, long list, with each course laid out in a timeframe. That will force you to prioritize competing goals. Pick a class that seems unlike anything you’ve ever thought of trying before. Enroll in the maximum number of units possible. That way, if you don’t like your wildcard course by the drop deadline, you won’t be stuck.

You can take this approach in life, too. Sow your wild oats among diverse orgs and extracurriculars and see where you feel most at home. The results might surprise you—I definitely didn’t expect to get tangled up in the Misc, and now it’s basically my life. 

No matter what you choose, you’ll have plenty of time to complete the major you end up declaring. Even if you change your mind a few times between now and then.

Best Wishes,


P.S. Saying you’ve got time may not be helpful…but you’ve got time. You’ll figure this out.

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