Stumbling along can benefit students

There is a lost art that goes unnoticed in the world of education and learning. It’s a beautiful skill, which most take for granted or don’t even get to experience; it is the practice of accidental stumbling. This is a term used for taking classes that seem fun, rather than the ones that are required, and ending up finding a subject that never would’ve sounded interesting until taking a semester of it.

By the time most students get to college, high school has made them so thoroughly exhausted that they aren’t interested in completing math, English and other required courses. They just want to have fun, but end up taking those required classes and struggling through them because of boredom.

Yet, stumbling is a perfect way for students who are unsure of their major or career track to find something they actually love doing, but maybe never would have thought of as a career or field of study.

For me, it was a film studies class in my first semester of college. Originally, I took the class to watch movies, but it ended up having a completely different effect on me. The class woke up my tired brain and then lit in on fire, in the best way possible. For the first time in a long time, I felt like my love of movies and television was being validated as something that could be educational.

It never occurred to me that people could study and critique films or television shows as a career, let alone something you could study in school. I was in awe; and the next semester I took another film studies class and was equally fascinated. Now I’m considering changing my major to that very field of study, all because I fell into a class just to watch movies.

Most students get warped into believing this idea that you have to finish community college in two or three years and then transfer out right away. This may be a great goal for someone who knows what they want to do. But, for those students who are still unsure of what they want to do with their lives or even what they are interested in, stumbling is an excellent way to find out.

In fact, 80 percent of college students entering their first year are usually unsure about what major they’re going to choose, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition to that uncertainty, 50 to 70 percent of college students will change their majors at least once and most will change their majors at least three times before graduation, according to the University of La Verne.

Picking a class solely based on if the description grabs your attention, enrolling and then just diving in head first can wake up the minds of students who are affected from the monotony of four years of high school. They are no longer tired in class, bored or just completely apathetic.

Instead, they feel they can engage in discussions and debate; they actually care about the things they say in class and learn that homework can be fun simply because they have nothing to lose. If the class doesn’t work for them, they move on, but if it does they are that much more excited about learning.

The recession and today’s economy makes a lot of young college students scared to choose a major they love, for fear that they might not end up in a good financial state. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Instead of spending their first couple of years dipping into a range of intellectual pools, the class of 2018 was much more likely to declare an academic major during freshman year than their counterparts before the recession.”

This can cause dangerous amounts of pressure and anxiety for students who should be attempting to discover who they are while establishing their own philosophies and thoughts of the world. The idea that you have to go to college has been pushed into students brains since Kindergarten, so they should have the freedom to explore when they finally get there.

The California Community College Board of Governors and the Student Success Task Force do not agree, however. In 2012, the board voted in favor of adopting 22 different recommendations from the SSTF that they thought would increase student success. One of these recommendations was that all students must declare their major by their third semester of college if they want to keep enrollment priority, according to the SSTF final report.

However, with the statistics gathered about how often students are likely to change their major, this recommendation makes no sense and seems somewhat pointless. It makes students feel as if they have to sign their name to something that is set in stone, when in reality they should be able to take as many classes in as many different departments as they want, until they find what they need.

Far too often students fall into this trap where they feel they have to pick a degree that is the easiest to transfer, a major that leads to the most lucrative career or classes other people say they should take. If these students do this they may get stuck taking classes they hate, and eventually stuck in a career they hate, and may later feel like it’s too late to change anything.

Stumbling helps students figure out that there may be something out there that would fit them better and interest them more, and that should be the point of higher education in the first place. It doesn’t matter that they haven’t quite figured everything else out yet; at least they’ve discovered that they have options that they can completely fall in love with, which can change the entire course of their life.