Between venturing into the unknown as a first-time college student, along with the narrow goal of just trying to get classes to transfer, along with financial aid struggles, it would be understandable for some incoming college students to get so frustrated that they decide the headaches aren’t worth it and elect to pass on college altogether. However, they don’t. Those same students persevere through the unknown, modify their original thinking for enrolling at a 2-year college and start to make some progress through their financial aid processes. Life is grand, the skies are beginning to part, and they begin to think this college thing isn’t so bad after all.
And then the ultimate question, the one some have avoided like the plague: What is your major?
Some students are fortunate enough to know what they want to do or, at the least, are confident enough to declare a major and explain why they want to pursue that area of academics for the foreseeable future in a formal education setting. Others, not so much. Some have an idea, but quickly follow it up with a back-up plan in the event their initial idea doesn’t come to fruition, a safety net of sorts. Then there are students who pick something and invariably say they are doing it because that is what their parents want them to do. Then there are some who don’t know what the hell they want to major in at all. The ones who fall in the category of not knowing what they want, or flip-flop before even stepping foot in a college classroom, present a different sort of challenge and lend credence to the belief that life is about the journey, not the destination.
When a student has an idea of what they want to major in, one way to foster that idea is for a student to understand that it is okay to nurture that idea (1). That merely means that the idea does not have to grow overnight. Instead of declaring a major off of an idea, a student can take a class in that area of intrigue while filling out the remainder of their course load with required courses. That way, a student is starting off with little, to no, pressure to satisfy requirements for a major. If a student takes a course in the discipline in which the idea is fostered and likes it, they can take another one the following semester. If they don’t like it, no big deal. At worst, they have an elective which can be applied to a discipline later. Well, the worst is failing the class, but that is when students, and academic personnel, must realize the value and importance of consistent communication to make sure everyone is on the same page and seeing the class through even if students hate it.
Choosing a major should be fun. It is a time when students have the educational world at their fingertips. At the same time, choosing a major does require an exercise in internal discipline. Everything from financial aid, to academic progress toward a degree, to students having their tuition covered by a variety of benefits depends on seeing a degree plan through in a timely fashion. Those factors may be the furthest from a student’s minds, simply because they may not realize that treating majors like a nomadic trek across the unknown isn’t the best way to go, and that leaves it up to academic personnel to reinforce the importance of finishing classes each semester and staying on track when it comes to a chosen degree plan. Students should choose a major they enjoy, but it doesn’t mean a student should change their major 600 times in an effort to find the right one.
There is also another option for students to take when they don’t know what to major in: the option not to choose a major right away. Students choosing a major because people give their opinion is cool, but those same people cannot go to class for them, they cannot listen to a lecture for them, and they cannot take their tests for them. Understanding that goals change all the time is key in understanding that choosing a major right away doesn’t always equal academic achievement in the form of a college degree and/or successful transfer to a 4-year college or university. Choosing the right major may assist a student in going toward their dream career. Conversely, choosing the wrong major may assist a student in developing a disdain for the chosen discipline and vowing to stay away from what they initially wanted altogether.
If a student wants to major in engineering, yet they stink at math and science, it doesn’t automatically mean they can’t major in engineering. However, it does mean that a student should be prepared to work hard at both disciplines and perform well with the goal of improving and becoming good at them. It also means a student may have to stay in school longer or go to summer school, and if those are things a student is willing to do, then go for it. When an understanding of those factors doesn’t equate to a student graduating with a degree in engineering, yet it provides one with the foundation to eventually work in the field, then a student still ended up at their destination, albeit through a different journey.