If you asked people on campus to describe a stereotypical Brandeis student, I would bet that most people would describe a student with three majors, two minors and who is a member of eight clubs. I chose a different path. I have one major (English), one minor (Journalism) and I am a member of one club (The Brandeis Hoot).
College is generally seen as a time for exploration and trying new things, which I’m guessing is why people tend to commit to so many different areas of study and activities. However, when I came to Brandeis, I already knew what I wanted from my college experience. I knew I wanted to study English and journalism; I knew I wanted to join a student newspaper; and I knew I wanted to study abroad in Dublin. My study abroad experience did get rather rudely interrupted by a global pandemic, but I more or less achieved everything on my college to-do list.
However, just because I had a preconceived idea of how I wanted to spend my college career does not mean that I limited myself. I still experienced new things. Within the English major, I took classes that I never could have imagined signing up for when I was attending a small high school in Maine. For instance, I took an English class about Bollywood, despite the fact that I had never seen a Bollywood film before and knew next to nothing about the industry. It ended up being one of the best classes I ever took at Brandeis, and I even started watching Bollywood films just for fun.
The journalism program also expanded my worldview. Coming from a small town in a pretty rural area, I had never even met a journalist. My high school didn’t even have a school paper. My admiration for the profession only grew as I heard more stories from my professors about their time as journalists. I was in complete awe of them.
It was perhaps because of my admiration for my professors that it took me even longer to realize that I was capable of pursuing a career in journalism. My professors were so intelligent and worldly that I couldn’t imagine myself ever being able to match those qualities. The Hoot, and my friends on the staff, played a large part in the realization that it was possible. I steadily climbed the ranks at the newspaper and joined the editorial board. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but, at some point, I realized that I was already doing the job of a journalist, even if it wasn’t in a professional setting.
While the English and journalism departments introduced me to unknown territories, I was also able to explore many different areas of studies because I only had one major and one minor. I had time in my schedule to take classes outside of my chosen departments. For instance, I took an American studies course about American comedy because I thought it looked interesting and fun. I didn’t need it for any sort of credit, and it didn’t count towards my major, but I was still able to take it.
Having only one major and one minor also allowed me to explore my areas of study more deeply. I only needed to take 10 English classes for the major, but I ended up taking 13 just because those classes interested me, and I wanted to take them even if they weren’t required. The same thing happened with the journalism minor; I was only required to take six classes, but I ended up taking eight.
In short, because I chose not to take on too many activities and spread myself too thin, I was able to devote my time in whatever manner I chose. Mostly it meant that I spent more time on the few commitments I had made. The Hoot may have been the only club that I joined, but, at times, it felt like I was spending so much time on it that it was almost a part-time job. I was willing to do that because I had the time, and I love the newspaper.
The point is that I spent my college career doing what I wanted to do. I encourage you to do the same. Maybe you want to join 15 clubs and have six majors. Maybe you want to have one major and spend the majority of your free time sitting around doing nothing with your friends. It’s cliche but true: Do what makes you happy, and don’t worry about comparing yourself to others.