Passion vs. Practicality: Why I Changed My Major

About 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. I am one of them! Yes, me, the girl who decided she was going to be an Elementary Education teacher when she was 16. But actually, I just knew I wanted to teach. I was never sure what I actually wanted to teach, so I chose elementary because it was the most practical. Most elementary education majors walk out of college with a job in their field. Want to be sure you will have a job right out of college? Go into elementary education.

“Want to be sure you will have a job right out of college? Go into elementary education.”

I did everything possible to dip my toes into elementary education while in high school. I volunteered in every elementary school in my town, I became a Junior Achievement teacher, and I worked in a daycare. I took every opportunity through my work to help out with children’s programs. When people asked me about my future plans for college, I told them elementary education with confidence. I was certain of elementary education.

However, in the back of my head, deep down, I knew my heart was with English. My head told me elementary education, and of course, my head won. I applied to college and was accepted into the elementary education program and this semester I began taking classes.

I was sitting in my 9 a.m. class, just a normal day, and it finally clicked for me. I do not want to teach elementary. I want to teach secondary English. I spent the rest of the morning thinking about switching my career path and everything that came with it. What would my parents think? What are the logistics of an English major? Would the classes I am taking right now transfer? How much money am I losing? But even in the midst of all those questions, I knew I had to listen to my heart. Why? I ignored my dream of teaching secondary English for years because I was told elementary education was the more practical career.  

“I truly realized that what is practical in life is not going to make me happy in the end. Passion will make me happy.”

I truly realized that what is practical in life is not going to make me happy in the end. Passion will make me happy. I did not want to spend the rest of my life teaching elementary children when I knew it was something my heart was never with. It takes a special person to teach elementary and I knew I was not one of those people. But, it also takes a special person to teach English and literature with passion and drive. I want to teach the students the love for literature that I once learned for myself.

Right after my morning classes I marched into the Dean of Education's office, asked for an appointment, and at 2 p.m. I talked through the change with my adviser. Luckily, the classes I am taking right now will all transfer from the elementary to English education major. I officially changed to a Broad Area English Education Major and I feel more certain than ever.

Teaching, as you know, is not a high-end, money-making career. Teachers make very little compared to the work they put in and out of the classroom. Instead of making big money like other professions, teachers make educated pupils of society. That is worth more than any paycheck. As I reflect on my past high school English classes, I can remember there were students uninterested in every lesson during the class. Quite often a student would ask our teacher how useful an English lesson would be in our lives. A lot of students found English class to be a waste of time. Not me—I felt at home in the English classroom. When we had to write a final analytical paper in my tenth grade English class on Lord of the Flies, I was one of the very few students interested in devoting my time and energy into this paper. I was eager to analyze and write. Most of the students would have rather taken a standardized test than write this analytical English paper.

In my heart, I knew elementary education was not right for me. I was doing it because I was more concerned about job placement and affluence. There are about 150 elementary education major graduates within my college each year. There are about 15 English education graduates. Jobs in the English education field do not come as often as jobs in the elementary education field. However, teaching secondary school English is what I sincerely feel I am called to do. When I was in the elementary education program, every day felt like I was preparing myself for a career I was not made for. I felt called to teach, but I also felt called in the English department. Put two and two together, and I was called to be an English teacher.

“I realized that my career is going to be lifelong, and in that case, I wanted something that was not a job but instead, a lifestyle.”

The preceding problem with our generation is caring more about future job placement and economic stability rather than our own individual passions and dreams. I am sometimes nervous about how successful I will be with my degree in English, but, I would much rather have that sense of uncertainty with a degree I love than be in a field I am not passionately enthusiastic about. I realized that my career is going to be lifelong, and in that case, I wanted something that was not a job but instead, a lifestyle. If I had graduated with a degree in elementary education I knew I was going to be another unhappy American with a job I did not love and a lifestyle that was dragged down by it.

Following your dreams can be one of the most petrifying leaps in life because sometimes there is little certainty or success in what you choose to love. That should not stop you from following your dreams. It should push you even more to go after what you were made to do. I took the leap toward changing my major and with the support of my family, friends and institution, I am certain I made the right decision. Next semester I will be fully integrated into the English education program and taking classes toward graduating with the degree of my dreams. Do not listen to the voice of others when it concerns your own life path. The life you live is the life you have the power to design. When I listened to that of others, I was not listening to my heart and to be happy, your life should be led by what your heart feels is right for you. In the end, it will not be about the money you made or the status your acquired. In the end, a successful life will be measured in your own happiness.


Rosie Pechous grew up in Hastings, Minnesota. She is currently a full-time student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls studying Broad Field English Education. She writes a lifestyle and environment blog and searches for new writing opportunities every day. If she is not studying or writing, she enjoys the outdoors, including alpine skiing, running, yoga, hiking and watching the sunset. 

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Posted on November 25, 2016 and filed under Articles, English Major Stories.