A letter writer is having second thoughts about studying psychology.
It’s a great subject to study, says our elder – but don’t pressure yourself if it’s not for you.
How are you? My name is Gwen and I am a Brazilian high school senior passing through a moment of a lot of doubt regarding my academic career choices. Before the pandemic, I was quite sure that I would study psychology in one of Brazil’s renowned federal universities considering I have quite a good chance of being approved considering my high scores on previous tests. However, that option has begun to seem less attractive to me since isolation. I don’t know how to explain but I feel as if I’ve started knowing myself better after spending so much time alone and now I’m not sure if psychology is for me. So, I’m considering courses that are more alternative such as Japanese literature or audiovisual arts, but these courses are quite frowned upon by my family and even by myself sometimes, even though my heart sometimes considers studying them. I am caught in a dilemma between following my heart and choosing a less formal career or following all the work I’ve done until now and opting to study psychology. I’m scared of following my emotions too much and ending up in a difficult situation later in life. So what should I do? Follow my feelings or be rational and choose a more certain career?
Thanks for trusting the elders for advice on your career path.
I’m glad that you are taking some time to consider what type of studies would be a good fit for you, not just for your studies in the university but also as a lead-in to a career. We elders get lots of letters from students all over the world like yours wondering about their prospective fields of study and asking for recommendations. It truly seems to be a universal quest among those furthering their studies to find what discipline speaks to their heart as well as providing the likelihood of a successful career. You are fortunate in being a high-scoring high school student who has many choices available, but sometimes too many opportunities can feel overwhelming and full of pressure. I hope the advice which follows is comforting and helpful.
University is a place to explore and expand your idea of who you are and who you want to be. Keep thinking, searching and trying out whatever feels right to you. Think about your interests, your skills, and your abilities right now. For example, are you more comfortable working with people, or solving problems, or working on your own, etc.? What subjects held your interest as well as allowed you to excel in your high school career? What do you want to know more about because you just didn’t get enough in high school? You have all of the clues you need to decide how to begin, knowing that as you grow and change based on your learning experiences you may decide to change directions. You will make better choices now if you focus on what you know about yourself and what commands your attention, rather than worrying about what subject or area of study might provide a good career four or five years in the future.
If you feel that you must choose a major on entry (or if your university requires you to pick one), I would personally recommend psychology as a good place to start, since what you learn there is very applicable to many other disciplines or fields of study. I began my college career as an English major, but switched to psychology and biology when I realized that I had an interest in the brain/body connection as well as in the capacity to learn within all of us. As an adult, I found my university education valuable in multiple careers in the medical field, in education, and in business. I might not have made the change except as a first and second year student, I took a number of electives because of my personal interest in those subjects which were not related to my English major. I found a better fit for me. You can do the same when you investigate what drives your passion and interest while accomplishing the basic requirements of a chosen major. No time spent in learning is ever a waste, even if it turns out that you discover that you don’t want to pursue it further. On the other hand, you may discover by comparison that your major courses fit you perfectly right from the start.
So, final advice: don’t pressure yourself into a career that doesn’t fit you or your abilities and skills or provide a spark to learn more. Take a year or two to investigate and discover as you prep for further studies, Gwen. Be brutally honest about your “fit” to your subject area – you will want to do work as an adult where you can feel accomplished and successful. In the long run, the “what” you do is not nearly as important as “why” you do.
I truly hope this has provided some support for your decisions. I wish you the very best of a bright and successful future. Good luck to you!
Article #: 462931