A Major Decision


Some students aren’t sure they’ve chosen the right college major, while others are confident there’s no other path for them. Brandi was one of the latter. She started out as a music education major, but she will be graduating this December with a degree in communication. We sat down with Brandi to find out why she decided to switch and what this process looks like at Illinois.

portrait of Brandi
Brandi, a Communication major, smiles near the Hallene Gateway on campus.

What made you want to switch majors?

“I loved music education. That’s why I thought I knew what I was doing right when I entered college. But I very quickly learned that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I still wanted to teach and learn how to better communicate and explain, but not in a traditional sense in a school classroom.”

When did you have the realization that you didn’t know what you wanted to do?

“I was a little crazy and was taking 21 credit hours. It was only two or three weeks into spring semester sophomore year. I had gone through three semesters at that point of almost all music education courses, because a lot of those also fulfilled [general education requirements]. I had taken maybe three classes outside the School of Music.

“I think it all just came crashing in one day. Like, ‘Wait, why am I actually doing this? Is this what I want to do? Can I see myself teaching? If I don’t get a high school job teaching band (which was my goal), can I see myself teaching junior high band? Or junior high orchestra? Or any of those things?’ And I just couldn’t really see myself in that position. And that scared me.”

What helped you get through that fear?

“I called my parents. I was sitting in my car after a music education observation. I called my mom and said, ‘I have no idea what I want to do. Is that okay?’ I was throwing out some different ideas about creative writing, or studying all these different things, just because I didn’t know.

“It was uncomfortable to sit in that unknown for a while, because I had decided I didn’t want to do music education, that I wanted to do something else—but I didn’t know what that something else was yet. It was really refreshing because as I talked to my parents, they both said that, even though I didn’t know it, they could tell I had been a little overwhelmed for a while. I thought that college was just about being stressed.

“My dad had told me that he had actually been praying for me for quite a while because he saw that I was really stressed. Even though it seemed like such a drastic change for me, because it would change the course of a lot of what I was doing and entirely of what I was studying, it didn’t come as a surprise to him.”

Brandi and her family
Brandi poses with her family, all proudly clad in Illinois gear.

How did you decide on communication?

“Two of my siblings [majored in] communication as well. One did it with a business minor, and one did it with a religious studies minor. Another one of my siblings had tried a few communication classes, and she wasn’t a big fan of it. So that told me I could still try it out. I knew it was very flexible, and also broad. I decided that since I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, these are skills that everybody should just acquire anyway. I figured I should just acquire those skills and then also learn how to research at the same time.”

Can you draw any parallels between the two majors?

“I was surprised how much of an overlap there was between music education and communication, because I was not expecting that at all. My basic education courses that I had to take for music ed [were] teaching me how to better communicate with colleagues and with students of all ages. Even though the content was completely different, it almost all transferred over to communication. The performing aspect of [playing] a piece on the trumpet or singing in front of a class transferred almost directly to public speaking and giving presentations.”

What kind of support did you receive on campus?

“Once I decided to actually switch to communication, it was really easy. I looked up the email of an advisor in communication and talked to them. It was just filling out a form, getting it back to the communication advisors, and coordinating with the music department. [The music advisors] were also very supportive and were sad to see me go, but they said they didn’t want me to be stuck in something that I didn’t actually want to be in. I had support from the college that I was leaving and support from the college that I was going into.”

Since becoming a communication major, have any courses stood out to you that have made you feel like you’re in the right place?

“I loved CMN 102, which is Intro to Communication Theory and Research. [A lot of] people love the professor, Brian Quick. It gave such a wide view of so much of what communication is, because each class [is] a different theory or a few different theories of communication. It gave me a really broad sense of what communication could be and all the things it could incorporate. I loved that class. I’m going to be a teaching intern for it next semester, so it definitely stood out to me.”

Brandi posing with a family and Cru members on a trip in east Asia
Brandi spent six weeks in eastern Asia last summer.

What’s next?

“I’ll be graduating in December, but I’ll still be on campus in the spring leading Bible study for Cru, the main [Registered Student Organization] I’m in. I really want to STINT, which is a short-term international internship with Cru. I want to do that in eastern Asia, where I spent six weeks last summer and got a good view of kind of what life there would be like. These internships can be one or two years.

“I think full-time vocational ministry is in my future, at least for a couple of years, and then possibly work with a nonprofit. I like the teaching aspect of things, so I could even do some sort of teaching and presentations or trainings in a business setting.”