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Your Guide to Selecting a Major

Image by Saulo Mohana, unsplash.com

Image by Saulo Mohana, unsplash.com

If you haven’t decided on a major, you’re not alone. At least half of college-bound students are undecided about their majors.

It’s a difficult choice to make, especially when it feels like you’re making a life-long commitment. With hundreds of options to choose from, it’s no wonder that making this decision can feel a little overwhelming.

Selecting a college major is a personal choice dictated by several factors, including your interests, strengths, attraction to a particular subject area, and your individual value system. Taking the time to research your options will make it much easier to make an informed decision that you are much more likely to be happy with.

Undeclared or undecided major

While many students feel stressed about not knowing what they want to study, this is quite a normal feeling. Choosing an undecided major could turn out to be a blessing in disguise since it will give you the opportunity to explore different ideas, discover your interests, and find your strengths before you settle on something.

You will have the chance to explore different classes, and you may even find that the one that peaks your interest is something entirely different than what you would have imagined. You will gain exposure to various teaching styles, some of which may work better for you than others. Be sure to work closely with an academic advisor to get the best out of the experience.

For many students, the added benefit is that they end up meeting and socializing with many different people. Rather than just heading to events focused on a single major, you end up attending various on-campus happenings and get to know more people.

Double major or major/minor programs

When you choose a double major, you receive one degree with two majors that are typically related and integrate with each other. You would need to complete the requirements for both majors, as well as the general education requirements and those of your home school. Concentrating in a secondary area can be extremely valuable and marketable, which many employers look for these days. It also shows you are willing to take on challenging tasks.

Since earning a double major takes more time and commitment, you should carefully weigh your time, finances, interests, and patience when deciding what makes sense for you. Speak with faculty in your major and advisors at the Career Center about the benefits and drawbacks.

Choosing a combination of majors and minors can increase your marketability and better prepare you for the career you want while being less demanding than a double major. Think about minors that would complement your major, such as a subject from the liberal arts if you are studying a major in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). You gain valuable skills that can be of benefit in any career, such as effective communication and problem solving.

This option tends to suit students with a variety of interests, who wish to incorporate these into their studies. Of course, there are other ways to gain experience, such as completing internships, taking part in research opportunities, studying abroad, taking more classes than required, or joining clubs.

Research the prospects

When it comes to making a decision, research is your best friend. Take time to study and analyze your interests, values and skills. Speak to students studying majors you are interested in and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out if they have student organizations and set up a meeting or ask about attending an event.

Also, speak to faculty that teaches in that area – most professors will even allow you to listen in on a class, so make the most of the opportunity. Find out which textbooks are required, visit a bookstore, and give the books a browse.

You may find that an industry professional in your chosen field earns much more in a different country, so it may be worth spending time studying abroad. Especially if your chosen field requires a thorough understanding of local legislation, such as a health and safety manager. The more information you gather, the easier it will be to make an informed decision.

Pursue your passion

Choosing a major in a subject matter you love or feel passionate about can make a big difference to your level of engagement, and ultimately, your grades. If you loved math at school and excelled at it, then why not pick a major in science?

You may think that the wiser choice would be to select a major based on those careers demonstrating the most rapid growth. After all, you want to increase your chances of securing a well-paying job after you graduate.

The reality is that job markets can change very quickly, so while a career may be in high demand today, that might not still be true in four to five years’ time. Furthermore, 65% of students will end up in jobs that haven’t even been created yet. If you choose something you are passionate in, then everything else will fall into place.

Get hands-on experience

If you think you may be interested in pursuing a particular career, but aren’t sure about what it would entail on a daily basis, then why not intern or volunteer? Gaining work experience in your preferred field of study will give you valuable insight that you just wouldn’t get from a textbook.

If you’re thinking of building a career in social work, ask if you can volunteer at the local shelter. You gain hands-on experience and get a real taste of what the job is like – the good and the bad.

If you find it’s not the job for you, then give something else a go. Exploring a variety of pursuits will help you discover which career path is right for you. It also offers you the chance to connect with professionals in your field, which can help with employment opportunities down the line.

This article was contributed by guest author Mackenzie Fox.

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Tips For Choosing A College Major You Won’t Regret

Image by UNE Photos, Flickr

Image by UNE Photos, Flickr

Choosing a college major is a big decision that will affect the course you take in life, and many students experience serious stress when faced with the decision. With looming debt and increased competition, it’s perhaps more important than ever to make an informed, careful decision on your college major so you won’t regret your choice after graduation.

Don’t Panic
Remember that whatever major you choose, it will not be the end-all of your career and life. You can always change careers later or go back to school, and many employers won’t care what your college major was once you have several years of work experience to draw upon.

Know Where Your Passions Lie
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when selecting a college major you won’t regret is whether or not it will enable you to follow your passion. Even if the numbers are against you, if you choose that more practical engineering degree over that fine art major, you might find yourself miserable in a poorly matched career. If you don’t know where your passions lie, take different courses and experiment while in college to see what resonates with you.

Research What Fields Pay Well And What Degrees Are In Demand
Yes, which majors are in demand and what careers pay well should be a factor in your decision. After all, it is likely that you will graduate with debt, as many college students do, and will need some way of paying that off. But it’s also important to remember that hiring trends and in-demand majors change, so take that into account when deciding. A bachelor’s degree in health information management, for example, can quickly lead to a rewarding career. Choosing a major that leads to in demand jobs and growing fields can make your post-college life much more enjoyable.

Other Things To Consider
Talking to or shadowing professionals currently working in the field or career(s) in which you’re interested is a great way to see whether or not a particular major is what you should be pursuing. You can also talk to recent graduates. Not only will connecting with people in various fields help you decide on a college major, but those contacts might be able to help you find or get a job later. Also consider things like whether it is in your best interests to pursue a graduate degree. For some bachelor’s, it is impractical, while for others it is necessary to get all the educational benefits and the best positions in the field.

Choose a major based on your passions, what degrees are in demand, and what careers offer the best growth and pay. Be sure to do research, either by speaking with professionals or recent graduates and looking at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You’ll be sure to find the best match for you.

This article was contributed by guest author Anita Ginsburg.

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Five Topics To Supplement Your Education With For Success

Image by Tim Pierce, Flickr

Image by Tim Pierce, Flickr

When you’re getting your degree, you will find that expanding your horizons is the way to grow and discover. As tedious and stressful as it seems in the process, you want to graduate with as much knowledge as you can. Taking classes and programs in the following topics – even if not your specialty – can help increase your success:

Music Lessons
Learning how to sing, play an instrument, or experimenting with anything music-related can help with improving your overall education in numerous ways. It can help develop your musical ear, patience and work ethic, and reduce anxiety. Music lessons can definitely benefit your overall life and well-being.

Psychology
Taking a few classes in this field will help you learn more about your mind, the psychology behind thoughts, and your ability to process how people think. Psychology helps educate you about the human mind and improve your social skills. In fact, many business majors advise taking certain psychology classes to supplement their education.

Law
Studying any form of law enforces your ability to protect yourself when you go out into the real world on your own. Understanding the government and the laws we must all abide by can help you when starting a business too. Talks on Law can help you learn about the topic in an informative and entertaining way.

Exercise Science
Exercise science or any class on physical improvement can help enhance your life and understanding of the body. You will learn how your body works and what you can do to better improve your body and your health.

Business
At the end of the day, nothing beats having knowledge on business. It can be used to help further your career in multiple aspects, whether you want to help somebody manage their business or you’d like to create your own. Any business classes you take will give you an idea of how the market works and what to expect from an office job.

These five areas can help improve your confidence by giving you outlets and knowledge in more than just your major. Whether you want to take extra classes or actually get a minor in one of these fields, they can help open up opportunities for you to learn more and guide you into life outside of college.

This article was contributed by guest author Anita Ginsburg.

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Eight Signs you are Enrolled in the Wrong Major

Image by CJ on Flickr

Image by CJ on Flickr

As a university student, you will often find yourself doing a lot of soul searching. I know it sounds cliché, but take it from someone who has been there – it’s completely, one hundred percent true. If your only experience with such deep meaningful moments is from watching teen dramas, be prepared for a shock. These “experiences” are not going to give you the answers you’re looking for; in fact, they usually just leave you with more questions. Your soul searching starts with the big picture stuff: Who am I? What am I doing here? What do I want out of life? and usually then devolves into something along the lines of: Should I order food? Can I take a Netflix break? Both? Yes, both is good.

Once again you are content with life. You don’t know if it is the mild food coma or the comedy you have decided to binge watch, but sometimes it is better not to question the universe. That is until your half hour study break has become a three hour marathon. Then comes the panic. You know what you’re doing is wrong, but you can’t stop. Another episode goes by. Panic gives way to shame and self-doubt. I’m just not cut out for this. It’s 2 am. I should just go to sleep. The books lie there, taunting you. I hate (insert subject here). Have you ever considered that maybe this isn’t your fault? Maybe you aren’t a terrible student. Maybe you’re just in the wrong major.

Does this story sound a little too familiar to you? Then it’s either time for a change of academic focus or an intervention for your Netflix addiction. How do you tell the difference? Well if this downward spiral is really due to your lack of interest in the subject matter you’re studying, you are probably also doing most of the following:

  1. Skipping class. Sleeping in or missing lectures to do other work doesn’t count. I’m referring to the “I literally can’t remember the last time I went” kind of skipping, which only means one thing: you are not interested.
  2. Having trouble staying on task. You find yourself easily distracted when you sit down to study. Your Facebook account is always one tab away. Your cell phone is in your hand. Your jammed stapler is suddenly fascinating (before and after you have taken the time to unjam it).
  3. Searching for the motivation you used to have. The work ethic you had in high school seems almost superhuman. Now just the thought of doing anything class-related is exhausting. You usually take a nap instead.
  4. Anything but your readings. If you haven’t opened the textbook you nearly bankrupted yourself to buy, your prognosis for the rest of the semester is not looking good. Yes, some students pride themselves on acing classes based on lecture notes alone. But if this is really something you are passionate about (which it should be) you will want to read more about it whether the material is testable or not.
  5. Procrastinating. While I have yet to meet a student who has never put anything off until later, it is not the act itself that should raise red flags but the reason behind it. Pulling an all-nighter to finish the paper you had no time to start until the last minute because of all of your other obligations is the norm. However, purposefully doing anything else to avoid working on your assignments until is almost impossible for you to complete them on time might be a sign that this discipline is not for you.
  6. Enjoying your electives more than your required courses. These are the lectures you show up for every single week. Not only are you actually prepared and engaged but you leave looking forward to the next class. Take a step back and you will probably see that most of the classes you choose to take of your own free will fall under a certain branch of academics. Maybe this is what you should actually be getting a degree in.
  7. Letting your grades slip (and surprisingly not caring). You are intelligent. You have made this far in the education system and you are so close to having something to show for it. Don’t sacrifice your GPA because you could care less. Trust me; there are enough challenging courses that will be more than willing to drag it down for you (even when you are studying something you love).
  8. Avoiding opportunities you should be pursuing. Contrary to how it might appear, most universities actually want you to be employable. They benefit if you get hired and excel. This creates an incentive for them to provide avenues for their students to gain real work experience. However, it is still up to you to make the most of these opportunities. Being reluctant to search them out and apply is often the first sign that you are not serious about your future as a (insert subject here) major.
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Top 4 Resources for Choosing a Perfect Major

Image by www.audio-luci-store.it on Flickr

Image by www.audio-luci-store.it on Flickr

Almost two million high school students take the ACT college readiness assessment every year. ACT reports that two thirds of ACT tested high school students choose a major that does not fit their interests. Choosing the wrong major will result in the student taking extra classes, spending more money and wasting time. Here we outline the four best resources for choosing the perfect college major – one that fits you:

Career Counselors
It is an unfortunate fact that many high school students do not take advantage of their school career counselor. The time to visit a career counselor is at the beginning of high school, not the end. Career counselors can help identify your interests, evaluate your abilities and explore different career options. Most importantly, they can help you set obtainable goals for high school and college and create an action plan to reach these goals.

Online Resources
The internet offers thousands of college guide websites, many of which are loaded with ads and irrelevant information. The U.S. Dept. of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics offers the College Navigator as a resource to help students. This search portal allows students to search for schools by state, program, degree level and institution type. There are also additional resources, such as career advice and financial aid information.

Online Academic Programs
Choosing the perfect major is more than just choosing the right program or career. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that over 20 percent of students take online courses. Browse the courses offered online to see which ones fit your interests. Online degrees have some advantages over classroom-based teaching, as they are typically more affordable, convenient and flexible. They also reduce commuting needs and save time. Online schools offer the benefit of being able to study your ideal major from the comfort of your home. For example, it is entirely possible to obtain an online master’s in civil engineering (MSCE) through Ohio University. Being able to study online, while working full time and staying socially active, is a win-win situation.

Federal Student Aid
The U.S. Dept. of Education’s Federal Student Aid website allows students to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many students have limited finances and their choice of school depends on the financial aid available. The FAFSA application is very user-friendly and easy to complete. Students can research which colleges or universities they wish to attend and simply enter the school codes during the FAFSA application process.

In conclusion, some of the best educational resources for students choosing their major include a high school career counselor, online college guides, FAFSA and universities that offer online degrees.

This article was contributed by guest author Anica Oaks.

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