Category Archives: Choosing a major

Majors & Careers – They are Not the Same

For the next two weeks, our blogs will revolve around college majors. Often times, when talking about college, academic majors become a substitute for a career. Majors and careers are not the same thing. I clearly remember telling my dad I was majoring in communications and he asked if I was would someday be a TV news anchor. (I never took a journalism course!)

Whether you are about to graduate high school, or just did, or you’re in your first, or second, or maybe even third year of college, and have not decided on a major, we have a few recommendations to help you narrow your choices.

• Do our Self-Inventory worksheet! It’s downloadable for free, on the Worksheets link (above). If you put a little time into it, it should help you clarify your strengths and interests.
• Ask your high school/college counselor if there are any internship opportunities s/he could connect you to this summer. Real world experience helps sort likes and dislikes quickly! (The internship more than likely will be a volunteer position/unpaid.)
• Review all the majors offered at the college you plan to attend/are attending. Generally the college’s ‘course catalog’ can provide a comprehensive list of all the majors at the institution. You may find something appealing you didn’t know it was a major! Our catalog provides a list of careers associated to each major.
• Talk with people who know you well – ask them what careers they “see” you doing and why they came to that conclusion. My high school principal told me I should be a teacher, I thought he was nuts, but now I’m an academic advisor – and although not the same thing, both are connected to education.

As you do these things, take notes. Reflecting on your options will help you make an informed decision on the classes you take in the Fall term.

Time to breathe (and reflect)

So, the first year is done.  Done.

Grades may not yet be posted, and maybe you have a few days until your summer job starts (or whatever is on your ‘summer plate’).  Here is something to consider as you ‘look forward’ in the midst of reflection:

Uncertain about your major?

Not sure what career you want?  Or, will be able to land?

But, you do know that you want the thing(s) that “makes you happy,” “earns you money,” and “is not boring.”

Consider this advice given to someone searching for a career.

As you can read there, looking for the “just right” job/major/friend/situation is not necessarily the best plan.  Try out new things; embrace new situations (including friends).  Give everything you’ve got to what you are doing now.  Be in this moment and breathe.  Enjoy “summer” even if it is crazy busy and not a vacation.  Enjoy reflecting on what you’ve accomplished this past academic year.  Look forward to next academic year.

But, in the meantime.  Look around and enjoy who and where you are right now.

Shared Thoughts from a College Senior

Jonathan is a college senior and he’s already received a job offer, which he’s accepted! (Congratulations Jonathan – yay for employment!) In this short article he shares, what he has deemed as three “important principles … during his time in academia.” I think they’re useful to high school students, college students, and parents of both high school and college students; enjoy!  Reflections of an Employed College Senior

The Career Fair, as a First Year?

Yes, first year students should go to the career fair. You are only a few years away from wanting a full-time, well-paying, post-graduation job, which means there are only a few more career fairs to attend. Put on some respectable clothes and go! Take a few cues from this article (imagine yourself as the ‘lower-profile business’).

Let the networking begin! Research the companies attending the career fair in advance, seek out connections at the ones you would be interested in working for. Ask about internships, part-time jobs and volunteering. Schedule a time to go to the company to conduct informational interviews. Being on-site is your best way to get a feel for the business since you will be able see the facility and observe the staff. Collect business cards and write ‘thank you’ emails within 1-3 days after the event. Make sure to confirm the upcoming informational interview date and time.

Grades and Financial Aid

Federal financial aid comes with very specific academic progress requirements. Students must pass at least 75% of their courses each term, stay in Good Standing (not be on Academic Probation), and in some cases are not allowed to use financial aid for course repeats. Any one of these situations can trigger an inquiry from the Financial Aid office, asking for “Satisfactory Academic Progress” paperwork to be signed.

It is vital that you (student) understand all grade and academic requirements, to maintain your financial aid eligibility. Know the specifics of each type of aid (federal, state, scholarships and grants) you receive.

My parents want me to major in…

My parents want me to major in… but I have no interest in a career in that field.

We (advisors and faculty) hear this a lot. Here are a few recommendations on how to handle these delicate situations.

Option: If you know what you want to major in, meet with a major advisor, discuss career possibilities within the field, find out about job placement rates of recent graduates and come up with a semester, by semester, academic plan through to graduation. With this information, hopefully you would have the resources and knowledge to speak with your parents about this major and the opportunities it provides.

Option: If you do not know what you want to major it, but you know it is not the major your parents are pressuring you toward, meet with a career counselor to do major exploration. Career centers have numerous activities and resources to assist students in making this decision, and they know the specific major options available on your campus. Once you have some majors in mind, speak with your parents about them, emphasizing those that are better suited for your strengths and interests. Hopefully, you will be able to sway them to relax on their desires and support your choices.

Option: If you have strengths in the field of study your parents are guiding you toward, we recommend you speak with a career counselor about career choices that align with the major; you may be surprised by the options. Also, speak to a major advisor in the discipline to gain deeper insight on the courses required for the degree. These two activities may help spark your interest in the major and allow you to make an educated decision about your field of study.

Notes: 1) Unless you have a very specific career goal, such as nursing, engineering, or a job that requires a certification (i.e. certified public accountant), most majors will allow you to purse a career field of your choice. 2) Unless written permission is given, parents, by law (FERPA), are not allowed access your student record.

The Choice: To Minor or Double Major?

My major is only 37 units, but I need 120 to graduate. Should I minor or double major?

This situation is actually a great predicament to be in. You have the opportunity to graduate with a broad range of knowledge and experiences!

Speak with your major advisor and a career counselor on your campus since they each should be familiar with the majors and minors offered at your institution. Ask your major advisor for ideas on second majors and minors; s/he should have recommendations which would be an asset, or compliment, to your major. While investigating these options, make sure to take note of how many units each of them are; it would be best to keep yourself close to the 120 unit minimum.

Ask the career counselor about career options within the major(s) and minors you’re investigating. Find out if there are internship opportunities in these fields in the local area. Conduct some informational interviews to help you narrow your options.

Have fun making this decision!