“Follow your passions.” “Do what you’re interested in.” This is advice we receive too often as college students. It’s also generally ignored. I’ve met many students, including myself, who take the path of least resistance when it came to classes and course loads. We say that a good GPA is all that matters or that we want to have fun and not be stuck in the library all weekend. We even eschew our areas of interest in favor of easier, less interesting subjects. This is a myopic and selfish path to take.

Coming to Cornell, I thought I was going to major in biology. I enjoyed it in high school and was good at it. I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to do after college beyond a vague desire to help the environment and maybe go to law school, but I thought that biology could help me. Rumors of the difficulty of the biology major, along with the realization that it was mostly full of pre-med and pre-vet students, quickly dissuaded from that course and instead put me on the biology & society track. But I soon realized that I had to take a lot of science courses to fulfill that requirement. I had never taken chemistry or physics before, and although I had excelled in math classes, I never considered myself a “math kid.”

So, thinking ahead to the possibility of law school and its need for a good GPA, I picked a seemingly easier major. I opted for science & technology studies, a subject for which I felt no particular passion. My freshman year, I took classes in that major and other easy, filler classes. I finished with close to a 4.0 with little effort but found myself unsatisfied and burdened with what was close to a sense of guilt.

Going into sophomore year, I lost my full scholarship. My guilt intensified, and I knew I couldn’t keep taking easy classes for the sake of earning a high GPA. I dropped all of the classes I pre-enrolled in the previous spring, and added classes that would […]

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