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Sunday, October 18, 2015

A major decision: How to figure out what to study by Mike Watkins

"Figuring out what to study can be difficult. Explore your interests, look inward and seek help from advisers." summarizes Mike Watkins / World-Herald Correspondent

Some people enter college knowing exactly what they want to study and stick with it, but for others, it takes some trial and error to make the best decision. We asked these 12 students how they chose a major.


When Bailey Wrenn advises students about looking inward to choose their college major, she simply has to draw from her own experiences as a confused undergrad for inspiration and guidance.

As a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha several years ago, she struggled to choose her future career path. Her adviser suggested she major in math or science because “that’s where the jobs are,” but instead, Wrenn followed her heart and studied history — and ultimately she was right.

“I was not good at math or science, and I knew if I followed his advice, I’d regret it,” said Wrenn, now the education coordinator for the Buena Vista University satellite campus located at Iowa Western Community College.

“So when I meet with a student who is struggling with this decision, I understand what they’re going through. I simply try to help steer them one way or another. I want to help them explore their interests and passions toward selecting a major.”

National statistics indicate difficulty in choosing a college major is a trend that continues to grow. And more than 50 percent of those students who do choose a major (it’s recommended they decide by the end of their first semester sophomore year) end up choosing a different one (or two) before deciding on a final one and graduating college.

Schools everywhere are working diligently to address this opportunity in a variety of ways with a variety of different approaches.

Immediate Intervention
Regionally, the trend is focused on providing counseling and advisement as soon as students start their freshman year — especially if they haven’t had much direction in high school.

At Hastings College, incoming freshmen must take a three-hour, semester-long “first-year experience” interdisciplinary class, where they work with a faculty-member adviser to learn about available majors and search out their own interests to ultimately decide upon a course of study.

The class teaches students different approaches to choosing a major and gives them knowledge of the curriculum available to them.

According to Dr. Gary Johnson, vice president for academic affairs at Hastings College, education and encouragement — not pressure to choose — lead to open dialogue exploration and ultimately a major decision...

Suited for the future
Dr. Johnson said that while it’s important for students to choose a major early in their college career for a variety of reasons — the opportunity to take the right classes, adequate time to prepare for application and acceptance into their selected major and peace of mind among them — this isn’t life or death. And changing majors at some point isn’t necessarily going to derail a student’s career path — although it may prolong their time to graduate and increase overall cost.

The bottom line, he said, is that students — no matter the pressure they might receive from the school, friends, parents, finances, etc. — need to choose a major that best suits them and their career plans.

Source: Omaha World-Herald