The Path to a Math Major

Hello everyone! My name is Nicole, and if you read the title of this post, you can probably guess what my major is. But this was not always so. I want to share my experience choosing a major so that you, reading this right now, know that not everyone is born knowing exactly what they want to do.

When I started university at a small liberal arts school, I was convinced that I had taken my last math courses in high school. I had finally scrubbed my hands of the subject that, at that point, I hated. However, I didn’t really know what I wanted to study, so I took a bit of everything. Except math.

However, plans change, and I transferred to the University of Rochester at the start of my sophomore year. I still thought I wanted nothing to do with math, but I still remember the feeling I got when I saw math and numbers in my chemistry class. I had a feeling not unlike the emotion you feel when you see a good friend for the first time in a while. At last, something familiar! I know how these work!


Fine, I told myself, I’ll take one class and may be I’ll try for a minor or something, but there’s no way I’m doing a major in math.¬†Oh, how hindsight is 20/20. The next semester, I registered for a course in cryptography. Cryptography is right at the intersection of number theory and computer science, or math and more math. I loved it.

As many upperclassmen know, the spring of your sophomore year is the deadline for declaring a major. The flowers were blooming, and the April deadline was beginning to loom over me. I thought about how much I liked the math classes I had taken, (and how I didn’t have a major yet) and decided to officially declare a major in mathematics.

It’s been a while since that decision, and I still think that it was one of the best I’ve made. I’m not saying that challenging yourself to study a difficult subject is a cakewalk. But knowing that I’ve pushed myself and succeeded has given me the confidence to take on risks and challenges in other aspects of my life.


So there you have it. The path to my major was not an easy or straightforward one, but I got there eventually. If you’re reading this and you’ve yet to declare your major or even decide on a university, the one thing I want you to know is that¬†it’s okay to change your mind. Before I decided on math, I changed major plans at least six times. I even changed my mind on what university I wanted to go to. Take a deep breath, it’s gonna be just fine.

About the author

Nicole Sammartino

Hi! My name is Nicole, and I'm a math major in the class of 2020. Currently, I'm studying conservation biology for my Take Five program. I'm originally from Fairfax, Virginia and I love the cold Rochester weather! On campus, I'm a member of the Music Interest Floor and the University of Rochester Pep Band. When I'm not in class, you can usually find me trying out new tofu recipes or playing the trumpet.

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