You’ve gotten into college…but now what?
Most likely for the first time in your academic life, you are inundated with choices on what classes to take. Most colleges offer hundreds- if not thousands- of courses every semester, in broad subjects like biology and English as well as very specific subjects you may never have even heard of, like geophysical engineering and rhetorical studies.
How do you go about choosing courses, let alone choosing a major? The process of choosing can be very intimidating.
Here are a few tips to get you on the right path:
Find an Academic Advisor
Generally, students start college with at least a vague idea of the kinds of subjects they’d like to study. For instance, you may love and want to study history, but have no idea whether you prefer to major in American history or renaissance history. Finding an academic advisor who works in the history department is a great place to start- that person will be an invaluable resource as you work through your interests and decide which initial courses to enroll in.
At many colleges, you will be assigned an academic advisor as an incoming student. But, if your assigned advisor works in the chemistry department and you really like political science- or if you aren’t assigned an advisor at all- do not hesitate to take a trip to the depart office you are interested in and get to know the professors early on. Professors love students who take initiative and invest time in learning more about a subject of interest.
Go to the Bookstore
I talked about this in my last post as one method of discovering whether a college would be a good fit for you. But once you are there, the bookstore is one of the best places to get advice on what courses you should take.
A short course description may catch your attention, but is it enough? Remember that you will be spending a lot of your time not only in that class, but studying and writing papers outside of class. If you value your time and education, do not choose classes based solely on a course description!
As I think back on the classes I came to love the most, I realize that the professor is just as- if not more- important than the subject being taught. The best way to find out who the great professors are is to ask your peers. And the best place to ask? The bookstore! It helps you find your “target market” of students you want to ask for advice. All you have to do is go to the section that has the textbooks for the subject area you are interested in and start asking students who pick up those books for their course and professor recommendations.
Visit The Career Center
Too often, students wait until their Junior or Senior year to visit the Career Center. Plenty of students think that the Career Center is only for those who have a good idea of not only what they want to major in, but also the kinds of careers they would like to pursue post-graduation.
This is totally false. Most Career Centers have wonderful resources for students at every stage in college- from those who are just stepping foot on campus, to those who have already graduated and are looking for new job opportunities.
Visit your Career Center and ask about any personal assessment tests or personality inventories you may be able to take that will help you hone in on your interests. Then, use what you learn to create a list of potential majors that might work for you.
You can also browse the Web. There are wonderful resources out there for helping you choose a major, such as MyMajors.com.
Do What You Love
Many students get bogged down with taking courses they “think” they are supposed to take. I knew of many peers who decided to go Pre-Med because their parents wanted them to be doctors, only to find out half way through college that what they really loved was anthropology or computer science. Another example: students may focus on choosing a major that will allow them to earn a huge salary once they graduate, so they major in finance without thinking twice about it.
It can be hard not to make choices like these because, truth be told, very few students are clear on their personal goals and professional aspirations during their freshman year in college. The best thing to do is actually pretty easy: just follow your passions and chart your own path. Do what you love!
If you get to college thinking you want to major in journalism, that’s great. Find a class or two that you think you may enjoy. But take a look at everything else, too. Pay attention to the course descriptions and recommendations that jump out at you. Maybe it’s an astronomy or geology class. Be open – now is the time to explore all of your interests, not just one. And like most people who are open, you may find something you love even more than what you initially thought you would major in.
Don’t Be Afraid To Change
Change is scary, but it’s inevitable. We don’t all make the right decisions the first time around. Even if you are far into a major, the moment you decide that you really do not like it, switch! Do whatever it takes- even if that means an extra class one semester or a few classes over the summer.
Even better, avoid this scenario completely by assessing how you feel about- and the value you are getting out of- the courses you are taking and the major you have chosen. If you take some time at the beginning and end of each semester to think about where you stand, you will find that the quality of your overall education will increase exponentially because you invested in the assessment of your changing interests throughout college.
The key to choosing the right classes and finding the perfect major is staying true to yourself and taking the time to discover what your real interests are. Don’t worry about the future career opportunities you think are only available to you if you major in a certain subject, what your parents of friends think you should take, or how popular the major appears to be amongst your peers.
If you follow your passions and interests, you will find that figuring out what to major in will become obvious to you. The best learning and future career opportunities will come to you most readily when you stay true to yourself and your interests.
Melissa is the Editor-in-Chief for studentbranding.com. She is also an where she manages brand extension projects for numerous publications including: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, People, and Entertainment Weekly. Melissa majored in Psychology at Hamilton College and currently resides in New York City. To find out more, read her blog, follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.