August 24, 2012 by Ashleigh Brock
Outside my window, I see new students and their families moving belongings into residence halls, navigating past the Career Center with their campus maps, meeting other new students, and in general, looking excited. This is by far my favorite part of the year. With new students moving in and classes about to start, there’s a palpable optimism on campus and I think it motivates all of us who work here to make sure this is a great year for William and Mary students.
Two weeks ago, I helped to welcome some of your classmates during the Office of Community Engagement’s 7 Generations pre-orientation program. Elizabeth, our panel moderator, wrapped up the discussion with a question I think you will hear a lot during orientation this week: What is one piece of advice you would give to new students as they begin their first semester?
There are, of course, lots of things we would like for you to do at the Career Center and you have plenty of time to learn about them. So instead, I would offer you something a bit more broad: What you choose to study will not define you.
At some point this week, this semester, or this year, you will experience the following scenario. You will take a class you may not have planned to take, or maybe just didn’t think you would enjoy. The professor, the content, a project, something will spark your interest and maybe ignite a passion you didn’t know you had. You will be excited and you will want to tell someone. You will call your parents, or high school best friend, or partner, someone you know will be so thrilled to hear you’ve found an area of study you really love. And, much to your dismay, they may say something like this: “Why would you ever want to study that? People who are _____ majors don’t get jobs!” This will deflate you and make you question whether that interest you found and that spark you felt was real. You will second guess yourself and wonder whether you’re making a mistake.
These moments – the ones where you realize you’re loving what you’re learning AND the ones where others question it – are what the liberal arts experience is all about. Here, you have the chance to define yourself, to determine your interests and commit to your passions. We want you to experiment with your classes, extracurriculars, and career options. We hope you will choose a course of study that excites and challenges you. But the major you choose will not define your success after college. You will. Your major will be part of a dynamic college experience where you will gain skills and identify strengths you may as of yet not know you have. When graduation approaches, you will have a wealth of knowledge, experiences, strengths, interests, and abilities to draw upon as you plan for what comes next.
So as the year begins, hold onto that optimism you feel today. And when those inevitable questions come about the options you choose here, remember that you are in charge. Success does not fall into the laps of those who pick a certain major—it comes to those who work for it, and who use their time here to figure out who they are and what they want to be. We’re just one of many resources here to help you along the way.
Hope to see you soon, Class of 2016. We’re ready for you!