How I chose my major: from Exploring to Engineering

An engineering student works in a biomedical lab

In the “How I chose my major” series, we showcase the academic paths CSU students have taken, and students tell their stories in their own words. Read on to meet Isabel, who went from Exploratory Studies to Chemical and Biological Engineering, and learn how she decided it was the perfect fit for her dreams and goals.

I came into college without a major, confused, and worried about all of the academic paths I could choose from. Also, I was in a new state and I did not know anybody at Colorado State University. There was every major I could have imagined (and some I didn’t even know existed); I could be everything from a psychologist, learning the inner workings of the mind, to an artist creating new and inspiring art. All options seemed like a possible route for me. However, I knew I was more interested in math- and science-related courses, so I took the first level of all STEM courses, as well as a course called the Grand Challenges of Engineering. This introductory course discussed all of the possible majors within the College of Engineering and took me through a step-by-step, real-life engineering project. Taking this class was a huge help as I was doing the hard, confusing work of deciding which major was right for me.

The professor took the time to sit down with me and map out all possible majors based on my interests. From that list, I researched the required classes and what types of jobs they could lead to. I finally decided engineering would make me the happiest. And, I knew I could continue learning in my favorite subject, chemistry, when I found the Chemical and Biological Engineering major. Once I chose the major, my future goals also fell into place. The journey from undeclared to engineering was all worth it.

One of the best things about my major is that it is the complete opposite of a one-size-fits-all education. No matter which engineering major you choose, you get to explore elective classes as you progress in your degree. These classes are so varied and interesting; with everything  from astrophysics to genetics to wind engineering to food chemistry. They allow you to personalize your academic experience and learn things that can give you an edge later in life. I think a lot of the other CSU majors follow this model, as well.

As I have progressed in this major, I have continued learning outside the classroom. I am a volunteer in an immunology lab on campus, I am currently an intern at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and a Learning Assistant for that same Grand Challenges engineering class I took my freshman year. Everything I’m doing now helps to solidify that I did, in fact, choose the right path. My cancer research internship directly relates to what I would like to do with my future career: I plan to get a PhD in biomedical engineering with a focus on tissue and cellular engineering.

Finally, one of the most-important things I have learned in this journey is you can — and should — meet with your professors and advisors. They can help you in more ways than just the class material. If you are unsure of what major to choose, you can email an admissions counselor to get some direction. Once you are at CSU, you can reach out to advisors in specific majors and ask to set up a meeting. This can seem intimidating, but I promise they want to help you succeed. Be sure to ask any questions you have about the major, requirements, rigor, and future goals in that subject area. Finally, once you find something you love, pursue it. Even if it seems like the hardest major in the world, there are countless resources that CSU has to offer and everyone here wants to help you succeed.

Isabel-Brandtjen headshot

Isabel Brandtjen is a Chemical and Biological Engineering major at CSU. She works as a learning assistant for Engineering 101 and an intern at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She is passionate about cancer research, cellular engineering, and tissue engineering. Outside of academics, Isabel loves skiing, hiking, and playing tennis. In the future she hopes to earn a PhD in biomedical engineering with a focus on cellular engineering.