Sugar Land, Texas
"It's not what you do, it's why you do it."
Caitlin grew up spending nearly every three day weekend, winter and spring break, and summer vacation camping with her family and developing an appreciation for and curiosity about the natural world along the way. It wasn't until she took an environmental science class in her junior year at Clements High School that she began to think about her love for the outdoors as a possible career, but she was still unsure about what to study in college. After graduating high school in 2015, she spent two years at two different schools trying to figure out what she wanted to do. In spring of 2017, she applied to the Jackson School of Geosciences on a whim, but was ecstatic to discover she'd been accepted! Since her arrival in August 2017, she's explored numerous topics within the world of geoscience, and is currently investigating the relationship between body size, metabolic rate, and bone histology in theropod dinosaurs. She expects to graduate in May 2019 and plans to attend graduate school to advance our understanding of the evolution of the atmosphere and the physiology of extinct life on Earth.
Like so many other students, I was completely lost when it was time to start thinking about what I'd do after high school. I had always known I wanted to go to college, but my school was very competitive and I felt pressured to attend a state university right after graduation. I had not even considered spending a year or two at community college or even taking a gap year developing my interests and researching which options were best for me. As a result, I ended up at a public university working towards a degree I had no real interest in. After all, when the school lists what college you plan to attend after high school on the graduation pamphlet for everyone to see, who wants to be the person with a blank space next to their name? It wasn't until I came to UT and truly began to pursue my interests that I felt happy and comfortable with the path I had chosen for myself, and that's because I was doing things I wanted to do, not because someone said I needed to do them. I'm unsure about what will happen after I graduate from UT, but I can rest assured that whatever I do will make me happy because I will do it for me, and not for anybody else.
The surprising thing is...
Being unsure of yourself or what you want does not mean you will not be successful! It's actually a great opportunity to explore options you may not have been aware of before, especially ones that go against the status quo. In hindsight, I would have chosen to spend two years at a community college rather than hopping schools trying to find myself, but there's no way I could have known what would happen back then. Today, I can appreciate the chances it gave me to explore the topics I had not been taught in school as well as lessons I learned about dealing with other people's expectations and how to balance them with my own desires, and the general uncertainty of life.
If you are feeling uncertain about a big change you know is coming (whether it's moving away from home to study at an out of state school or choosing not to pursue a degree at all), you are not alone. Many students struggle with reconciling their own interests with the expectations of their parents, peers, and educational institutions. The most important thing is that you choose something that makes you happy, because you are the person that is affected most by the decisions you chose to make. Don't be afraid to broaden your horizons in your search for what you want to do next! Understanding all the opportunities you have will help you make a more informed decision about what you want, and you will likely feel more comfortable with that decision as a result.