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college major

Student Life

Selecting Your Perfect College Major

April 8, 2021

Being a student can often feel like a whirlwind. Between taking a full load of courses and working in order to pay for the massive tuition fees, you also need to develop an overarching plan for your educational experience. Selecting a major, for example, can be one of the biggest challenges facing you. In order to make a decision that feels right for you, take a moment to review these points and learn more about narrowing down your choices. 

Think About Your Passions

Perhaps the easiest way to start is by thinking over what you are passionate about. What motivates you? More importantly, what are you curious about? When you start to scratch at the intellectual itch that comes from college campuses, you’ll start to uncover a wealth of information that inspires you in ways you never imagined. While you might not find your major right away, you will begin to take classes centering on topics that capture your interests. Over time, this will start to lead you toward a sensible major.

Look at the Staff

Another way that people tend to find their majors is by looking at the staff. Poking around in the directory of your college will start to show you the names of notable individuals in various departments. For example, students in science programs at UC Berkeley may find it helpful to know that a reputable expert like John Arnold teaches in the College of Chemistry. Give yourself time to root around in your directory and read various papers published by staff at your college to start finding people who inspire you.

Work With a Mentor

There are all kinds of useful services available to students at colleges and universities. For example, academic counseling services are usually provided to students as a way of offering needed guidance. When you’re not sure what classes to take or if you are in the right major for your interests, you can turn to these professionals to give you a push. In some cases, you may need to meet with several different counselors to find a good fit. Just as with any professional relationship, being able to communicate with each other helps you get the most from the connection.

Ponder Career Choices

Another way you can narrow down your selection and find a major is by thinking ahead at possible career options you will have. While people might advise you against a particular field because it doesn’t offer too many job opportunities, you can always find work if you know where to look. Sometimes, this means working in your field in a different capacity than you had initially envisioned. Look at where graduates in various programs wind up working and this might help you see which industry is the best fit for your goals.

Picking a college major can often feel like a huge decision. While it is true that you want to put thought behind your choice, you should not let it weigh you down for too long. You can always change your major if you find the path you have selected is not playing out as you had hoped. 

BIO: Brett Clawson has a degree in Business Management and has started a couple of small businesses. When he’s not focusing his time on those, he spends time with his wife and two sons. His oldest son has entered the wonderful realm of college, and he now enjoys sharing tips that he and his son have found essential for college life.

Transition

Undecided on a College Major? How to Not Waste Your Money

March 12, 2021

So you’re almost ready for college – right? Are you still trying to decide on a major? If you don’t know what to major in yet, how can you be certain the money you invest in your education is well spent?

Find Yourself With a Gap Year

A gap year is a semester or a year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and before starting college or a career. This idea is growing in popularity as more students take this intentional time to learn independent living skills, develop their interests, or experience a new culture.

Why take a gap year? Instead of spending time and money in college while you’re still undecided, you can find out what you’re good at and what work you’d like to pursue while spending a whole lot less (or even earning money.) Gap year students gain skills and experiences that look good on a college application and can help them get more out of their education.

Be OK With Not Knowing What Comes Next

College is a big investment that should not be decided impulsively. The belief that you need to have this all figured out by the time you leave high school can be a source of great stress, which can lead to poorly thought out decisions.

It’s not necessary to know your major when you enter college. However, it isn’t wise to pay expensive tuition or to acquire debt for a path you don’t feel certain about. If you want to explore a particular area of study while you decide on a major, there are lower-cost options such as auditing classes online for free, or taking prerequisite courses in your field at a community college or a state college where tuition is generally lower.

Consider Your Options

While considering a college major, take a realistic look at the time and money you can expect to spend in college before graduating and starting a career. What level of degree will you need to get the type of job you desire? Will you need to complete internships, a residency, or board exams? Is it expected, if not required, for you to get your masters degree? How much can you anticipate being paid, at entry level? These are important considerations that can help you develop a solid plan to avoid leaving college with unpayable debt.

When you understand the investment you will need to pursue your chosen path, you are better positioned to find support, such as scholarships and grants. If you do choose to take on a college loan, you will do so with a realistic plan for how and when you will pay it back.

Be Aware of Your Priorities

Not everyone leaving high school has a clear vision for where they will be in five years. Are you more interested in meeting people and exploring life as a young adult than you are in your studies? If you’re honest about that, you can avoid spending all your money on one priority and all your time on another.

Finally, be aware that your priorities may change by the time you leave college. If you imagine a home, a family, travel, or hobbies in your future, consider how these priorities may affect your financial and career choices. Above all, college is an investment in who you are and who you’d like to become. Invest wisely, and enjoy this time.

BIO: Brett Clawson has a degree in Business Management and has started a couple of small businesses. When he’s not focusing his time on those, he spends time with his wife and two sons. His oldest son has entered the wonderful realm of college, and he now enjoys sharing tips that he and his son have found essential for college life.

Career Other

3 Tips to Help New Students Decide Their Major

March 16, 2020

You’ve just arrived at college. Between the endless activities, free time and paths to choose for yourself, you are immediately bombarded with a plethora of choices to make. How do your study habits change? How do you make sure you get along with your roommate? How will you make friends? However, the most important one is a choice that centers on your education: your major. There can be a ton of pressure when choosing a major from friends and family, not to mention your own dreams of what field you’d like to work in after graduation. Here are three tips for helping new students decide their major. 

Consider Your Skills

When choosing a major, it’s easy to default right away to what you think will end up making you the most money. Everyone has occasional dreams of financial grandeur, and tying that into your decision of what to major in seems like a reasonable choice. However, make sure that when picking your major, you consider where your main skills and interests are. If you don’t have the passion for accounting but are a magnificent writer, think about how perfecting your writing to an elite level via an English major could pay off for you in the long run, versus merely being an average accountant. Sometimes, the “smart” choice in choosing a major isn’t necessarily the one that traditionally would earn you the most money. It’s the one where you can excel and perform at a high level. 

Think About After Graduation

When choosing a major, you’ll obviously want to keep what exactly it is that you want to do after graduation in the front of your mind. If you want to go right into the business world, a major that gives you a solid business background would be preferred. If you’re thinking about taking a gap year and then going to graduate school, a major that you think would help you perform well in your post-secondary education would be a smart move. While you certainly don’t have to be sure of what you want to do after graduation, you can think about a general field you wouldn’t mind having a job in and see if your education can inspire greater interest in the topic. 

Don’t Rush It

When you arrive at school, it may seem like you have to decide on a major as quickly as possible so you can start classes and tell friends and family about the direction you have. But don’t make the mistake of declaring a major just for the sake of declaring a major. Take your time to work through the different possibilities of what you could specialize in your head before making the decision. The last thing you want is to regret rushing to declare a major in a year when you’re in the thick of classes and it’s too late to switch. Think through what you really want out of your college experience, and then use that to guide your choice.

Choosing a college major is a high-pressure situation. However, if you consider what your skills are, think about what you want to do after graduation and don’t rush into making the choice, you can be sure that you’re making a choice that you can be confident in. Once you pick your major, you’ll be free to dive into your studies and enjoy all that the college experience has to offer.

Career Other

It’s OK to be Doubtful About Your College Major Choice

August 4, 2016

Some obvious and rather scary thoughts you may feel when you step foot onto your new digs for the next four years of your life may consist of fear, panic, excitement, joy, and/or doubt. As a matriculating sophomore, I understand your position and you should know that it’s okay

Keep these tips in mind when deciding on a major:

  • Remember: you are not married to your major! If you have room in your schedule, make sure to take classes that correspond with your interests and hobbies. These classes may help you understand what direction you’d like your career to go. Alternatively, if you’re already on a set path, these classes may give you a mental breather during the week.
  • Understand the college or university you’re deciding upon. A liberal arts education is “an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change.” A college that focuses on this type of approach typically facilitates a “close interaction with faculty and students.” Whereas STEM majors are becoming an “ever-present part of life throughout the world,” those fields are becoming more and more important. Which means career opportunities for students will be unlimited in any of these fields.
  • Strive to make a wise decision when choosing a college major. There is more than enough opportunity to change your major or pursue other careers in the future. A recent study conducted by CareerBuilder suggests “that plenty of Americans never work in the field that they prepared for in college.” This statistic may seem alarming, but reminding yourself of it can help take some of the pressure off.
  • Make sure you take you time in your decision, understanding yourself and what you want before choosing a major. Put your happiness and passions first.