Don’t be afraid to change your major

Studying sociology has changed my life


Caroline O’Connor/Collegian

By Isabel Levin, Collegian Staff

Throughout high school, you were probably lectured about how important it is to get involved in your community so you can build up your resume and get into a good college. It is also likely that this became reality and you ended up volunteering at your local boys and girls club, an after-school tutoring program or something else along those lines. Personally, this is what led me to discovering my passion — helping others.

Categorizing this as solely an extracurricular interest, I chose to pursue a major in communication – a field of study that is not typically thought of as putting students on track to directly help others. I rationalized this decision by acknowledging that careers in helping people in the way that I loved do not get paid well, and that I could always exercise this passion by volunteering. Two weeks into my first semester of college, I knew that communication was certainly not for me. With the help of encouraging friends, I made the sporadic decision to drop the major that I had been planning on pursuing since freshman year of high school. Multiple “What Should I Major In?” quizzes and long conversations with friends later, I chose to change my major, and I could not be happier with my decision.

Social workers as super-heroes” was one of the first videos to come up after I Googled “social work.” In this Ted Talk, Dr. Anna Scheyett preaches that everyone will need a social worker at some point in their lives, and there is no shame in that. Even the title of the Ted Talk warmed my heart and made denying my deep desire to pursue a career in social work even harder to ignore. As a newly-declared sociology major, I began to embrace the likelihood that I would go down the path that I had always been too afraid to embark on — clinical social work.

As I did not intend on pursuing a sociology major when applying to the University of Massachusetts, I hadn’t looked into the major at all. Luckily, the sociology department offers a certificate in Social Work & Social Welfare and happens to be one of the highest nationally-ranked programs that UMass has to offer. Sociology is often overlooked due to the immense popularity of psychology, and although both majors can lead to similar careers, the differences between the two are essential. Studying sociology has broadened my perspectives as to how external forces impact individuals, a focus extremely necessary in order to help clients as efficiently as possible in my field.

As I touched upon earlier, I continuously pushed away the idea of being a social worker because of the low wages and the volunteer opportunities available, which I believed would be fulfilling enough. After giving the idea more thought, I came to the conclusion that, like most Americans, I am going to spend a majority of my adult life at my job. I better be doing what I felt I was meant to do. Throughout high school, I volunteered at an organization where I served as a mentor for young girls and I developed irreplaceable, unexplainable relationships with them. The feeling that I got every time I saw their faces light up when I walked in the room gave me a greater sense of meaning than I had ever experienced. By pursuing social work, I hope to continue to impact and be impacted by those with whom I work.

Even if you are not interested in pursuing a career in the social sciences, I highly recommend taking a sociology class at some point while at UMass. This may be biased, but how could classes like “Sociology of Love and Drugs and Society” not entice you? I can confidently say that studying sociology has changed how I view pretty much everything for the better. I am now more aware of the larger global landscape that I reside within and why it is important to be aware of what is happening outside of, in my case, my white, middle-class bubble. Gaining perspective on the reality of what goes on outside of your own personal experiences makes one an immensely more well-rounded and intellectual individual. The knowledge that a sociology degree provides is therefore essential to be successful in any field.

Isabel Levin can be reached at [email protected]