"In my schooling before college, I always felt lucky, as I deeply knew that I wanted to be an engineer. Ever since I was little, I loved to take machines apart, and daydream about fantastical contraptions I could create. I felt at home tinkering in a workshop, or coding behind a computer, or sketching in a notebook. Over time, I gained a vague preference towards what was physical rather than digital, and went into university planning to be a mechanical engineer.
I (as nearly everyone does) quickly began to lose myself in college. Subjects which I thought I would dislike turned out to be fascinating. The first class of my major felt uninteresting and more difficult than any class before. Everyday I questioned what I was doing, and why I was doing it. The more confused I became, the more I questioned why I was pursuing engineering at all. After so much time, my desired "major" had become not just a career choice, but a part of my identity, which made this all the more challenging
Over time, I made choices and grew more confident in the path I wanted to take. To make those decisions, I found that five things helped:
1. Asking - In a new place, one of the hardest things to do can be to ask for help. But more often than not, upperclassmen, advisers, and professors are happy to give advice. While no journey is the same, there's a lot of guidance in those around you.
2. Exploring - My favorite classes thus far have been those which I've taken out of random curiosity. Four years gives time to experiment with classes and see what excites you before declaring a major. Beyond school, extracurriculars and internships are among the best ways to explore interests, giving the chance to put knowledge to practice.
3. Thinking - Beyond the enjoyment that making things brought me, more questions needed to be satisfied - both personal and practical. What did I hope to achieve in my career? How could I best benefit others? What could I see myself doing in the future? These questions are often best answered through introspection, helped with journals or lists, but kept in check before you think for too long!
4. Feeling - No matter what others said, no matter how loud thoughts could be - I would be hard pressed to make a decision that my "gut" was not behind. Your gut is the sum of all your perceptions and intuitions. While not infallible, it deserves tremendous respect.
5. Don't Worry (too much) - This one was the least useful to a worrying me, and will be the least useful for anyone reading this who is worrying about a decision, but is likely the most important. Some decisions are significant at the time without a doubt. But it's helpful to remember that you can't predict what your story will be, no person can predict your path for you, and your life will never be set in stone.
I am still a mechanical engineer, now with a better understanding of my interests and goals. Some days I feel filled with passion and drive; all four years mapped out, every step of my career chiseled, just as planned. Other times I'm right back to questioning everything from the start, fumbling for a way forward. When I come back to those times, I do my best to do what has helped: to ask others, explore what I can, think as much as is healthy, feel as much as is wise, and above all, not worry (too much!)." -M.F., MIT.