When deciding to pursue a degree in higher education there are many decisions you must make. What school will you attend? Will you stay in-state or move out-of-state? How will you pay for college? What will you study? All these questions require thoughtful research and planning. Of all these decisions, choosing the right major could have the most lasting impact.
“Choosing a major is about buckling down, knowing your interests and determining what kind of job you can get after graduation,” said Eric Kirby, executive director of completion and student success at Southern Utah University.
Kirby, also an alum of SUU, started school as a pre-med major, then switched to business, and then changed his major again, finally graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Kirby knows first hand what it’s like to change and shift direction. After his own college experience and now working with students everyday in the Students Affairs office, he sees the struggle on a regular basis. And it can be a costly and time consuming transition if students are unclear about what they want to focus their attention on and study.
He’s offered three pieces of advice for incoming students to consider when choosing the right major.
It is OK to start school as an Undeclared Major.
In this uncertain day and age, it is more and more common for people to start their college careers as undeclared majors. Students know getting a college education is important, but they may not be ready to commit to a certain area of study and that’s OK.
Undeclared students can still get their GE courses (or Jumpstart) completed while taking the time to look into their options, find their passion, try various classes and then decide what to focus on. Students who are undecided should also speak with career professionals to find the major that is best suited for them. At SUU, the Career Center helps students find their major and future careers every day.
Let the professionals help you.
Brian Fullerton, a career advisor at SUU’s Career Center, helps students find their interests via a Career Assessment. Fullerton works with each individual student through multiple assessments that review personality traits, interests, and strengths. The objective is to have the student learn more about themselves and find a potential career field. The better a student understands their strengths and weaknesses, the easier the process will be to find a career. The goal of professionals like Fullerton is to not make a major life decision for a student, but to help them understand more about themselves so that they can make informed decisions. SUU has several Major Decision videos that highlights what students will experience in the classroom, what careers are available and the faculty members at SUU.
Choose the career, not the lifestyle.
Always make sure that it is the major or career that is of interest, not the lifestyle. Oftentimes, students will say they want to be a doctor, lawyer, or dentist because they want to have a big house or a fancy car; they want the lifestyle but they do not truly understand what happens day in and day out. Make sure you are truly interested in the duties and responsibilities of a job, not just the facade of a lifestyle.
“It’s all about job shadowing,” said Kirby. “You should become familiar with the kind of work you will experience before you graduate so that you can spend time during school figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life.”
There are some students who know exactly what they want to do when they start college. They apply for a specific program, study one major and then quickly graduate. There are others that change majors frequently, never really discovering a perfect fit. And then there are those in between. When it comes to choosing a major, it is perfectly fine to not have all of the answers on the first day of college. Take some time, talk to the professionals, experiment with classes, discover your passions and then choose the right major.
With over 140 undergraduate programs across six academic colleges, SUU has something for everyone. By offering small class sizes and world-class project based learning, students gain the professional experience they need before entering the job market.