By Daphne Chapline ‘22
While visiting other colleges, I was astonished to hear that, in many places, you need to know your major as soon as you apply, and students find it extremely difficult to switch majors once they have declared. As a young person, I find it scary to think that at such a formative time in our development, we have to make a (somewhat) pivotal decision about what we want to do with our future. Before college, at least in my experience, we have not truly explored all of our options and found all of our likes, dislikes, and predispositions. When I was applying to colleges, I was barely old enough to buy an R-rated movie ticket; how was I supposed to know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life? This is why I steered toward liberal arts colleges, where I could investigate and dissect a range of different subjects.
Sitting with my advisor this past semester—my first at Pomona—while discussing the next semester’s classes, she suggested that I use this first year to knock out some of the area requirements. So, this semester, I am taking Introduction to Psychology and Beginning Dance, which is one of the only full credit (!!) arts courses offered for Area 6.
I was a little hesitant about both classes, worrying I would be so out of my element that I would dread every class. Then I remembered: being out of my element is what the liberal arts is all about! As it turns out, both classes have taught me the value of stepping out of your comfort zone. Doing so exposes you to so many new things, makes you a more well-rounded student and citizen—plus, you might fall in love with something unexpected. Even if you don’t end up madly in love with the new subject, though, at least you can cross it off your list.
Beginning Dance is an extremely fun class. Dancing in front of my classmates (none of whom I knew before) was at first a little embarrassing, but the experiences I have had in the class have forced me to lose sight, a little bit, of others’ expectations, the fear of public embarrassment, and of feeling “silly.” The professor has been very gracious and patient with us newbies, and I feel completely comfortable now with my classmates. Additionally, I am much more interested in psychology that I anticipated I would be. The sections about evolutionary psychology and gender psychology have especially caught my eye and are prime examples of the interdisciplinary nature of the class. I have found that the professors here try to make their classes appeal to people of all interests, especially in introductory courses. Intro Psychology is not a course that stresses simple memorization of disorders or parts of the brain; it includes interesting discussions on the nature of being human that are relevant to all of us.
One thing I realized in college, which many people told me but I never fully appreciated, is that you can truly reinvent yourself in college. This is much easier if you enter into a liberal arts curriculum. If you go to a college where it is hard to switch majors, you keep yourself confined to this box: the person you were when you applied to college. If you are sure about what you want to do, this is fine. But if you are like me, and have no clue what you want to do, it is nice to have space to allow yourself to grow. I am relatively the same person as I was when I was applying, no dramatic changes have taken place, but I still need time to explore. Without yet declaring my major, I have made certain that I am not forcing myself into a field for which I no longer feel the same passion and zeal. I am not forcing myself to be the same person that I was in high school. So, if you love astronomy and physics, but want to make sure your true passion does not lie in philosophy, music theory, or gender and women’s studies, you can do that at a liberal arts college like Pomona. It is freeing to allow yourself to develop and find yourself tackling challenges you never thought you could manage.