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 Amanda, a CSU Data Science major, and learn how she decided data science was the perfect fit for her dreams and goals.
When I first came to Colorado State, I was sure that I wanted to study psychology. I was so determined to stick to my plan of becoming a psychologist, I wouldn’t even give myself the space to be interested in other subjects. But in my first year, I was able to take other classes, meet students in other majors, learn about other fields, and I found that I wasn’t only interested in psychology. In fact, I was interested in just about everything. Some days I wanted to be a psychologist, other days I wanted to be a data scientist, or a private investigator, or a lawyer, or a politician, a mastermind in coding, a chemist … the list went on and on. I could see myself doing so many professions that it made me more confused than ever, and I asked myself so many questions about which one do I choose, which major was right for me, which will I enjoy the most, what if it’s too hard?
That last question — what if it’s too hard — was the question I asked myself the most. I was afraid of difficulty. In the past, I often I avoided anything even slightly difficult; a part of me felt like I was never “smart enough” to conquer challenges. However, the challenges that arose in my early CSU classes were precisely what motivated me to switch my major from Psychology to Data Science, and “the struggle” is now one of my greatest motivators. In my freshman year at CSU, I failed my college algebra classes not once, not twice, but three times. A part of me failing wasn’t because I couldn’t do algebra, but mostly because I was so convinced that I just wasn’t good at it. The fourth time in the class, I changed my approach to learning and found myself doing well. I was understanding the material, meeting deadlines, and doing well on my quizzes and exams. That struggle (and success) made me intrigued by mathematics, which used to feel like a different language.
After that, I knew I wanted to switch my major and study what interested me — even if it was going to be difficult. I finally chose Data Science, the perfect combination of mathematics, computer science, statistics, and many other fields such as economics, neuroscience, biology, and more. Studying Data Science allows me to be flexible and take my future career into my own hands, as it applies to so many fields. When I dream of becoming a private investigator, I see myself sorting through data to investigate patterns, and when I think maybe want to be a lawyer, I imagine projects that combine computer science and artificial intelligence to create a bot-like lawyer! There are so many things one could do in this field, and that’s precisely why I think it’s so great.
If you are unsure about what you can do with Data Science, you will see with time in your classes that everything involves some sort of data, and companies and organizations need people to make sense of it. Within the major, you’ll have concentrations to choose from, as well, but you don’t have to decide right away. If coding is something you’re interested in, go with the computer science concentration. If you feel like you enjoy statistics more and it would be more valuable for you, then do the statistics concentration. The same goes for math, economics, and neuroscience — it’s your chance to narrow your academic focus.
If I could give you one tip, it would be not to be afraid to make connections. Talk to your classmates, speak to your professors, and ask them what they’re doing. If you took a class and you loved, ask to become a teaching assistant. Get any experience you can get, and remember you are more than capable of doing hard things, and once you do those things, you will realize that any hard thing is and can be done by YOU … including finding the perfect major for you.
Amanda Elbaz is a Data Science major at CSU. She has worked as a teaching assistant in mathematics and computer science, and is involved in CSU’s The Inflection Point mentoring group, as well as the Math Student Advisory Council. She works as a Data Science Ambassador to inform incoming students on studying Data Science and related programs. In her free time, Amanda loves traveling to new places, reading, writing, exercising, learning, and drinking coffee and tea. Speaking of coffee, you will almost always find her at a coffee shop working hard and sipping on an americano. If not, she will probably tell you she’s daydreaming about her next cup of coffee!