Asking elementary school students which subject is their favorite is often a casual, light-hearted conversation starter. However, as students grow older and eventually attend college, that question results in more than just casual conversation. It generates an answer that will help them choose their major and define their college career and future.
For some students, arriving at college and realizing the importance of that question makes answering it much more difficult. Struggling with deciding which major to pursue is normal.
Grace Armistead, a University of Mississippi sophomore studying biology, said her answer has always remained the same. She knew from an early age she was a “science person.”
Armistead began to more seriously acknowledge her love of science when she developed a close relationship with two high school teachers.
“In high school, I had two teachers that were married,” she said. “One of them taught chemistry, and the other one taught biology. I became really close with them, and I think that really helped me love the subjects they were teaching.”
Armistead is competitive and always enjoys a challenge, especially when it comes to schoolwork. While growing up, she said the feelings she had about studying science were always different from other subjects.
“I just felt like studying the material for my science classes was a lot harder than studying for my other classes,” she said. “It felt more gratifying when I would study and understand the concepts of all that we were learning about in my science classes. It always made me feel really good about myself when I could actually do the things we learned about on my own.”
Originally from Mountain Home, Arkansas, Armistead decided to attend the University of Mississippi because she loved its atmosphere.
“I came to the University of Mississippi because I wanted to do something different from all of my friends from home who mostly went to Arkansas,” she said. “I loved Ole Miss when I visited because I felt like it’s still small enough to feel like home even though I’m away.”
Armistead declared biology as her major her freshman year at Ole Miss. Growing up, she said she always knew she wanted to go into a health profession. She took AP biology in high school and did well in the class. With her longtime goal of going to medical school in mind, she knew which major she wanted and needed to pick.
“I compared all the science classes I took in high school, and I knew I liked biology more than chemistry or any other class I took,” said Armistead. “Biology is more interesting to me because I was always intrigued by the way it applies to all humans and the world around us.”
According to a 2015 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2013–2014, women in the United States earned more than half of the degrees in the biological and biomedical sciences, but a smaller share in other STEM fields.
Jessica Jones, originally from Gautier, Mississippi, is a senior at the University of Mississippi. Much like Armistead, she knew from a young age she was more of a “science person.”
She said she always enjoyed science classes more than other classes growing up. One class in high school particularly stood out.
“In high school, I took a marine biology class that I loved,” she said. “Being from the coast of Mississippi, that subject really interested me, because I grew up interacting with the environment that I was getting to study in class.”
Jones always knew she wanted to attend the University of Mississippi. She had several family members attended and had no second guesses when deciding to follow in their footsteps.
When she applied, she thought she wanted to study pharmacy. She said she knew Ole Miss had one of the best pharmacy programs in the nation, which made her even more confident in her decision to study there.
“Recently, I’ve decided to change to change my original plans of being a pre-pharmacy major to graduating with a general studies degree,” said Jones. “Now the three minors I’m earning are chemistry, biology, and society and health.”
After graduation this spring, Jones wants to attend nursing school. Although different from her original plan, her intentions behind her studies are still the same. Jones wants to be a part of a pediatric nursing unit so she can help care for sick children.
“I have several nieces and nephews, so I’m really comfortable around kids,” she said. “I know that going to nursing school to help sick children get better is what I am called to do. I’m glad I was able to change my major as a senior to reach this goal. Through a general studies degree, I’m going to be able to get the most out of all of the classes I’ve already taken and still graduate on time.”
Although Jones changed her major while in college, her ultimate goal of pursuing a science-related degree has remained. Throughout her time at Ole Miss, she has been able to compare all of her courses and finally set a goal that is meaningful to her.
Armistead, who is a few years behind Jones, said one day she wants to do plastic surgery or study dermatology. She knows she wants to go overseas to use her profession and education to help others and do mission work.
While these two “science people” have different goals, they were both driven to their major by reflecting on what they enjoyed and related to growing up. Their answer about their favorite subject helped give them an identity that shaped their goals. For any student struggling to pick a major, figuring out what “kind” of person he or she is can be a great way to start.