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  • Grace Keller and Phoebe White

Making a (Major) Switch: Two High School Seniors on What Change Means to Them

Our mission at Her Voice at the Table is to create a space to share and discuss the intersections of student writing and well-being: how can we better serve the young people in our care, creating lessons and assessments that facilitate not just their skills but also their voices and sense of self? This mission, of course, isn’t complete without student voices, so we love when former students write for the blog, sharing stories from their journeys beyond our classrooms.

Last week, former student and current college junior Claire Weber posted “Making a (Major) Switch: Advice from a College Student” about her process of moving from certainty to doubt; initially confident in her major as well as her future career path, Claire slowly realized that these no longer aligned with her current interests. Her piece documents her response to this realization, emphasizing the joy we can experience when we decide to embrace change rather than resist it.

Today, we have the joy of hearing from more students, our interns Phoebe and Grace, two current high school seniors who respond below to Claire’s story, offering their own insights into what it feels like to embrace change–or rather, to face the unknown with grace, curiosity, and a little bit of humor.

If Claire Weber’s collegiate plans were foolproof, mine are the jester at court. I, like many high school seniors, don’t know where I will be attending college next year. I have an idea, well, several ideas, but the fact of the matter is I don’t know. I don’t know what state I will live in, who my roommate will be, my favorite place to eat on campus, or how long the drive home will be. Which is not easy. I typically like things neat and orderly (my ability to keep things that way is a different story). So the legions of moving parts that come with applying to college and making a career plan are stressful, to say the least.

Untitled by Jackson Pollock

Then again, when is getting an education not messy? The whole idea is to come into a classroom knowing nothing, and learn. For my entire school career, it feels like chaos has reigned. I’ll stay up all night to finish an essay, just to learn there was a twelve page reading due too. Or I’ll finally be at the grade I need in one class, for another class to fall five points. I spent hours organizing a planner system at the beginning of this year, and now I write most of my assignments on my hand or a sticky note. And I’ve been fighting tooth and nail to beat those ironies, but maybe all the chaos is just another step in the journey.

Maybe it’s time for me, or anyone really, to embrace some of the chaos. After all, a palm tree bends in the wind so it won’t break. Moving with, or even adding to, the chaos could land us in the right place. Or the wrong place. It’s probably a gamble, but so far it’s worked for Claire, so I’ll hold out hope. It’s comforting to hear a story like Claire’s; it reminds me that the goal really is to “figure it out,” not just follow a plan.

–Phoebe, Class of ‘23

Grace leading Steel Magnolias warmups

My first thought when reading Claire’s piece was amazement that she had made it all the way through high school, all the way through our competitive, all-girls private school, without needing any kind of significant help. However, I knew, on a smaller scale, how she felt, because I had a similar experience with change when I started here, specifically with my science classes.

I perhaps had it a little easier than Claire – I have never, ever, considered myself to be a “science person” like she did. Despite this, I went into freshman year physics with the confidence of a fourteen-year-old girl who has never had a B or needed help from a teacher. Perhaps this confidence, this pride, was what caused me to trip up so badly at the beginning. It was most certainly the cause of the shame I felt in having to ask the teacher for help. In middle school, everyone had been perfect – at least that’s how it felt to me. And while I had always known that I was likely not an athlete or a performer, I had known that I was good at school. Physics, though, changed this perception of myself, and in a sense, my perception of my future, because it changed my thinking on school as a whole. I didn’t need to be perfect in everything – I just needed to find what I liked to do. Enjoying my time from 8:40 - 3:40 is more important, ultimately, than perfect grades, and learning this early in high school freed me from worrying about my average in my science classes. This is why I started taking theater classes; this is why I am double tracking in English rather than in math, which had been my plan when I came to high school.

Grace performing as Clairee in Steel Magnolias

Reading Claire’s post made me feel less alone in my experience shifting from middle to high school and from perfection to imperfection. I think that most people stumble during at least one of their life transitions, because that is the nature of change – it is rocky, and strange, and always at least a little bit unknown. It is important to allow yourself grace, whether moving into high school or college, like Claire and I did, or moving into another new section of your life. It is not embarrassing to ask for help, it is not embarrassing to not be the best at something, and it's not embarrassing to be imperfect. (We all are, anyway.)

–Grace, Class of ‘23

Phoebe White is a senior in high school and adores late-night coffee, fine-point pens, and spends far too much time on Spotify.

Grace Keller is a senior who hopes to double major in English literature and theatre. She's a Libra who loves animals, writing, and long walks on the beach (not really -- walking in sand is more difficult than it seems.)

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