BY MARY BURGER – STAFF WRITER
There are few questions that can truly rattle a student’s mind and cause unnecessary stress. While a college senior cringes at questions about post-graduation plans, the idea of major declaration leads to stress-induced dreams and consistently changing life plans.
Many students enter college with an intended major and stick with it all the way through, but many of others tend to have consistent, middle-college crises throughout college as the brunt of the ever-looming future gets nearer and nearer. For the undecided major, even class selection results in worry as two very different life plans part ways because of academic requirements that do not match up.
Fortunately, the undecided majors are not alone. Faculty advisors allow students to have someone to lean on as they surf the unknown waters of major declaration. Assistant Professor of Religion Dr. Lee Jefferson emphasizes that most students who stress about majors are the ones who suddenly realize that they do not like a major, like Biology or English, as much as they thought they would.
“I think the pressure students feel is very real, and very large. It is my job to help talk them through it, to alleviate some of the pressure and stress, and help them realize that their major in college will not dictate success or failure in their post-grad life,” Dr. Jefferson said. “The major is a subject that they enjoy, and would like to study on a deeper level during their time here. It is not a barometer of success or does it stamp their identity for the rest of their lives.”
Dr. Jefferson himself graduated from Sewanee, the University of the South, a liberal arts college in Tennessee, as a History major. While he now teaches Religion, he greatly enjoyed History classes and knows that was the correct major for him.
“I have friends today who are surgeons and physicians who were English majors and Art majors. They did not want to miss having an opportunity to take some of those classes so they took some extra science classes during the summer, MCAT prep classes, and other science classes after graduation,” Dr. Jefferson said
Besides faculty advisors, students can also meet with their career counselor.
“I begin by asking them what they are hoping to accomplish by coming to see us. In general, some students just need to talk through major or career options for greater clarity while others are frustrated at not having a major or career selected and want more specific help in deciding on one,” Associate Director Kirk Knott said.
The Centre for Career and Professional Development also has a variety of interest investments that allow students to see what career types most interest them. These are not perfect assessments, but they can allow for some sense of clarity.
Senior Deanna Walker first wanted to be an English major. However, soon into her college career she began to play around with the idea of creating a Public Relations major.
“When I thought I wanted to do PR, I went to my advisor Dr. Oldham. He sent me to Director of Communications [Michael Strysick] because he would have a better idea of what classes to take,” Walker said.
Around that time, Walker was taking Sociology 110.
“I really fell in love with Sociology. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I liked Sociology,” Walker said. “Any post-graduate path works with this major.”
Walker utilized the resources available to her while also “shopping around” with different classes. In doing so, she majored in something about which she really cares.
Junior Sanna Gough came in as a Biology major, but switched to Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB).
“When I looked at the classes, the BMB major matches up better with vet school and med school requirements without adding a lot of extra classes in. It was easier as a BMB major to go abroad, do a German minor, and have some room for electives,” Gough said. “I came to a liberal arts school and wanted as broad of an education as possible. BMB let me do that.”
Gough also relied on her first-year advisor, who put her into contact with the pre-vet and BMB advisors. Her experience in the introductory BMB classes solidified her decision.
So first-years, sophomores, and seniors who may be looking back with regret, do not worry. Major declaration is not as severe as you expect. In fact, it is very anticlimactic when you finally log into Centrenet and check the appropriate boxes. So chose the major with the classes that interest you the most. With a personal investment in the subject, your abilities at critical thinking, application, and general knowledge will grow.
That is the beauty of a liberal arts education.