Since starting at the University of Toronto, I have already changed my major twice. Currently, I am studying biochemistry, physiology and psychology. Describing my majors to the new people I meet is always a tongue-twister and results in the question of “Why?”
I have always been passionate about science, but deciding the exact programs I wanted to pursue has been challenging. Although I plan to change one of my majors (again), I’ve realized that an open mind-set, following your interests and taking on challenges are some of the ways to navigate your POSt selection.
I started my first year in life sciences, but even by the end of high school I had realized I had a greater interest in chemistry and English than biology. Fortunately, being an Arts and Science student meant I was able to do both: I could take a full-year English course as part of my breadth requirement, and I had to take CHM135 and CHM136 as part of the basic life sci requirements. That September, it seemed like I had it all figured out from the start! I thought that by April, I would enroll in a double-major in English and either chemistry or physiology. However, my plans changed.
It was only a few weeks into first year that I realized chemistry and I did not have… any chemistry. I expected university-level chemistry to be challenging, but I also expected the content to be fascinating. Despite going to every lecture, I was no longer interested in gas solubility, atomic orbitals or acid-base chemistry. I spent hours sitting in Gerstein doing practice problems and attending office hours, but I just didn’t have that same interest like I did in my high school years. I came to accept that chemistry was not the program for me.
In my second semester of first-year, I took PSY100 despite never having taken a psychology course before. My high school had only limited course offerings, so I had no experience or any idea of what to expect. However, I was amazed by every lecture and even once I left Con Hall, I found myself Googling beyond the course content, eager to learn more. This introduced me to a subject that became my minor. I think it’s important to point out that you can’t always tell what you want to study unless you try a subject out. Taking electives outside of your program area can help you narrow down your choices. Taking just one course changed my perspectives on what I wanted to study, and my interest in psychology led me to pursue a research project. I’m so happy that I have been given the opportunity to contribute to the realm of memory research, but I never would have expected this in advance. Even if you take an elective and decide you’d never want to pursue further coursework in that area, this can help confirm your current academic plans.
I am currently completing a double-major in physiology and biochemistry. However, there were no courses offered in these areas during my first year. Taking a cell and molecular biology course in my first year made me realize I wanted to pursue a cellular field of science, but I wasn’t entirely sure if I should pursue studies in genetics, immunology, molecular biology or biochemistry. I ended up selecting biochemistry because the upper-year courses seemed the most interesting to me. Here’s another tip: if you’re deciding between multiple majors, I would recommend looking under the “Program areas” of the Calendar at https://fas.calendar.utoronto.ca/listing-program-subject-areas. Although you might be fascinated by a major’s name, the upper-year courses are when courses become program-specific and more in-depth. If you get excited by reading the course descriptions for your 3rd and 4th year courses, that program may be the right choice for you!
Taking a higher-level course, such as a second-year course in your first year, can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Although I am happy about continuing to study physiology, I am still unsure if I want to study biochemistry, which (right now) is my other major. Chemistry is not my strongest subject area. I decided to take a third-year Cell Biology course this semester. This was overwhelming at first, since I wasn’t expecting it to be so much more challenging than previous courses. However, I have realized how fascinated I am by cellular mechanisms. From transcription to histone modification, I get excited in every lecture to learn about the inner workings of the cell. Although it has been frightening to think about changing my major, taking a step out of my comfort zone by enrolling in a third-year course has made me realize my passion for cell biology is stronger than it ever was before!
Overall, the process of selecting my programs has been pretty stressful. This year, as I make the decision about changing my major, I have realized that it isn’t a bad thing to change your mind. It’s equally important to try to erase any misconceptions about fields of study you had before university. In grade 12, I remember how cruel and critical other students would be when we discussed our university plans. I was made fun of for going into sciences because they thought it was (a) boring or (b) useless without a graduate degree. However, you have to stay true to yourself and your passions! Selecting a POSt is about deciding what you want to learn about and can excel in, and not about other people’s thoughts on the subject area. By the end of my first year, I realized that I needed to be enrolled in a program that I was passionate about. I wanted to want to attend lectures and to study.
What are you studying? Was your decision difficult to make? Leave me a comment down below!