I've always said that expecting every single kid to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives at 18 years old is a total recipe for disaster. Of course, there are kids who know their whole lives and kids who were just born to do something, but that's not the case for everyone.
1. "I went to school for professional book editing because it was something I was good at, and I didn't think pursuing my real passion in animation was a real career option. I went to the closest university and got a degree in humanities (there was no English) with a professional writing certificate, then found no work."
2. "I majored in supply chain management, but in my senior year, I did an exercise in defining my values for a course and realized how unaligned my values and my major were. I love working with people, really care about the future of the planet, and love education and learning. Supply chain would have been a pretty corporate and analysis-heavy job with little personal interaction, and shipping and manufacturing are huge drains on our planet's ecosystem."
"After desperately trying to convince myself I could change the field, I realized it just wasn't the path for me and instead went to graduate school for higher education administration. Now I work in HR for a college and love working with staff, faculty, and students and supporting an amazing university!"
3. "Teaching degree here. I have wanted to become a teacher since the second grade. I started at the school as an instructional aide to find they don't back their teachers or aides. Teachers were going on their second year without raises, and aides weren't considered employees. They hire aides and let them go before their sixth months without having to give cause. The school is notorious for it."
4. "Political science major. I realized my regret at my college graduation when someone in my class of graduating PS majors shouted, ‘Yay, the major that means nothing!’"
5. "The degree I pursued was my second choice after my first choice became unavailable when the 2008 recession hit (I couldn't get the loans to go to school in Canada). I feel like I should have tried harder to find some alternate options rather than settle for getting a degree at a local university. There were other avenues available and other directions I could have taken things, but hindsight is 20/20."
6. "The moment I realized that I would regret my major was on the first day of clinical rotation. For most of my life, I knew that I wanted to care for people. I wanted to give compassionate care to sick people. I wanted to be a healer. The medical field is where I decided would help me help people. More specifically, the nursing field. Having a son early put my dream of being a doctor on hold, and being a nurse was the next best thing."
"Nursing classes were the worst kind of hard. The classes are so challenging, the class hours are long, and studying becomes your life. Even though classes and the tests were challenging, I welcomed the challenge. I couldn't wait for clinical. I couldn't wait to don my new white scrub uniform. The first day of my clinical rotation, I was up earlier than usual. I couldn't wait to get to the hospital. The moment I got off the elevator, I knew I would regret choosing nursing as my major. I knew from the nurses' faces. The shift was just getting started, and they looked as though someone had sucked the joy out of them. The nurses that were leaving to go home appeared irritated, and I could hear them complaining about their night. I can honestly say that I regret it. It's not the patients; it is truly the organizations that make you regret it."
7. "My major was youth ministry at a Christian liberal arts school. I had it in my head that I was going to work in a ministry helping inner city children. At the time, I had gone on a trip with my church youth group to an inner city outreach. I worked my summers in college at a camp for inner-city schools. Then I left college, went right to work in business, and quickly realized I didn't believe in God anymore. I stepped back and decided it wasn't right to think I was going to be some white woman savior for disadvantaged kids. Now I'm an atheist who works in IT management."
8. "Journalism seemed perfect. I'd get to write, learn a few technical skills, and hopefully get a job with it. It wasn't until I took a film class in my senior year that I realized how unhappy I was. Journalism is strict; the dry, 'objective' language and restrictions on creativity are completely flipped in filmmaking. You can be creative and raw, as ridiculous as you want. But if I switched over, I would not have enough financial aid left to graduate, so I stayed, and seven months later, I still don't have a job."
9. "I was passionate about health, fitness, and nutrition when I was younger. I mostly wanted to help people. I majored in kinesiology (sports medicine). I unfortunately didn't learn until my last year that any well-paying career I'd want to have required more extensive schooling, most of which required doctorates, which I did not prepare for mentally or financially. I got my degree, but I am essentially a glorified personal trainer — something I could have paid thousands of dollars less to achieve."
10. "Not so much the wrong major, just I should not have gone. I didn't get the chance to go when I was younger, and I ended up going in my early 40s. It never helped me get a better-paying job (even though it was connected to what I do for a living). So, now I am seriously in debt and will never get out of it. College isn't worth it after a certain age (unless, of course, you have connections)."
"Now, it is really hard to get my teenager interested in college since they have seen how it hasn't done squat for me. It is not too fair that I not only have a ridiculous amount of experience in that particular field and now have the fancy degrees and certificates to go with it, but they will still hire that young 20-something-year-old who has zero experience with the same degrees that I have. Then, of course, now I am overqualified and overeducated for jobs. So, totally not worth it for me that I went to college."
11. "I was a political science major in my third year, and then the 2016 election happened, and I just lost all desire to enter politics. Between Trump getting elected and the years that followed being a downward spiral of infighting and political games, I say I dodged a bullet. I went on to become a paralegal instead."
12. "I majored in mechanical engineering. Honestly, I kind of always knew it wasn't a good fit, but what really drove it home for me was that, despite taking classes for it, I felt increasingly incompetent and incapable of doing what the degree called for. I rarely, if ever, felt engaged in the classes required for my major, while my elective classes were consistently my favorites, often getting the lion's share of my time and attention outside of class."
"I would be excited to work on my drawings for industrial design or to show my friends new signs from beginners ASL, but I dreaded having to figure out how ball bearings work. Take notes, kids. If your electives are your favorite class every single semester, it's time to seriously rethink your future plans."
13. "Psych major. I realized I screwed up when, in my final year, they started talking about graduate school. Even if I wanted to go, nobody had brought it up to me that I needed to have been preparing since the moment I stepped on campus. I realized I had zero job opportunities without higher education, and even if I did, the pay is still shit without a doctorate."
14. "The major I regret was civil engineering. Apparently, being interested in buildings and bridges isn't enough to like engineering. It was so tedious and boring (not easy; it definitely wasn't easy), but it just wasn't interesting. I kept thinking it would get more interesting, but it never did, and the final straw that helped me realize it wasn't a good fit was when I tried to joke around with my classmates before class and no one laughed."
"I suddenly realized that it wasn't just the subject matter that was boring, but the people, too. And those are the people you have to work with for the rest of your life. After four years, I switched to geography and loved every second of it. It turns out I'm a people person, not a technical person."
And finally, here's a story where theory, interest, and reality totally did not align:
15. "My first degree was in horticulture. I was passionate about it when I went into it. The classes and labs were grueling, but I learned so many cool things. Then, two issues occurred. The scarcity of jobs beyond sales or manual labor and sexism. I realized I was hitting a 15/16-per-hour paywall at every job; I’d never make more than that. Manual labor was tiring, mentally and physically, after three years. Conservation jobs, which I was truly passionate about, were impossible to get into or not flexible for a parent (let alone a single parent like myself)."
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.