Category Archives: Choosing a minor

Handling Holiday Questions with Ease!

Soon to be college students and those in college, here are a few thoughts on how to handle the questions of “What are you studying/going to study? What kind of job are going to get?” during your holiday gatherings.

If you are unsure of which college you will choose to go to, or the major you plan to select, I suggest turning the question back on the person asking it. “How did you decide to go to the college you went to? What college was it? Where was it? What was your major the first day you were there? What major did you graduate with?” etc. Like in current times, people who were in college 10-30 years ago, often changed their majors, struggled with an academic obstacle, and have a story or two to share. Get these people talking about their college experience! If the person asking the question did not go to college, ask her/him what they would have studied if they had gone, and why they are selecting that major/field of study now.

If you are nearing the end of your college career, of course people are asking you what career or job you are headed toward. In these cases, I again suggest asking this person questions rather than replying right away. “What did you do the day after you graduated? How long did it take you to find a career related position? How long did you stay in that job? When did you realize you were on the path to the position you have now? What advice do you have for me? What are the top two traits you are looking for when you hire an entry-level employee?” It is extremely unlikely the person you are speaking with is doing the same job s/he did when they graduated, and soliciting advice from her/him is wise. You can thank the person for all their insights and never answer the question they asked you!

When you answer questions about your major/field of study, I suggest you speak passionately! Demonstrate your enthusiasm for YOUR choice by talking smartly about your classes, the research you are doing, the faculty you are learning from, and the opportunities you have engaged in on your campus. Share fun-facts about your program and/or college, and be proud of what you are accomplishing.

When answering questions about your intended career, be positive in your responses, showing confidence in YOUR decision to get a Bachelor’s degree in this field. Talk about the career workshops you have attended, the guest lectures you have seen (that have inspired you), and the resume you have already drafted. Ask if s/he would like to see it, and a sample cover letter you have written, and ask for feedback and edits. Also, make sure to ask this person if they know anyone in this field, or a similar field with whom I could do an informational interview. Informational interviews are a great way to learn more about an actual position and a company – take advantage of these connections.

Now you are ready to embrace these loaded question gatherings!


Experiential Learning

Learning by experience (experiential learning) is probably the most important activity to engage in while in college. I believe most students go to college precisely for these opportunities, although you rarely hear a student respond to “Where are you going to college?” with the response of “the place where I have the most opportunities!” Every college campus provides numerous ways to collect these experiences – but you, students, must be on the look-out for them.

Recently, a fun and funky friend of mine, provided me an experiential learning opportunity (as a 30-something adult). She honored me with a media pass to a festival which provided me access to take photos of musicians, bands and rockstar in the Media Pit! This bout with photography was really interesting in multiple aspects. First, being so close to the stage and the musicians was exciting! Second, watching professional photographers in action, running around the pit, bumping into each other – and being quite polite about it, climbing on fences and scaffolding was nuts! These individuals are only given 1-2 songs, or about 10 minutes in the pit, to get great shots. Third, noticing all the stage lighting, especially during the evening performances, makes one wonder, how do any of these photos look good with all those colors changing every few seconds. Additionally, the musicians aren’t posing for pictures, so the photographer has to know how to get a good shot, no matter what the performer is wearing or how s/he is standing/dancing/moving on stage.

My friend, Susan, tapped into experiential learning in college by writing for the campus’ weekly newspaper. Through this experience, she found her love of writing and photography. Today, she continues with this passion in two ways: 1) by interviewing bands for an Atlanta, GA, music publication (note: she lives in California), and 2) photographing musicians at concerts around the U.S. Currently, being a “rocktographer” is not her full time gig, however, she has a true passion for the industry and continues to pursue avenues to make this work a full time career.

So, student! How are you, or how will you, engage in experiential learning before the end of the term? Here is a photo of Susan, and our favorite band  at the festival: The War On Drugs!



Career Counseling

Have you thought about or tried career counseling? Did you even know it was a thing? Now days, some high schools have counselors who’s primary focus is helping seniors with their college applications and providing career guidance. However, if that was not available at your high school (or you didn’t take advantage of it), these services are available in college!

I was recently reading these Noel-Levitz reports which indicate 47% of first year college students, at all types of institutions: two-year public (community/junior) and private colleges, four-year private and four-year public (but remember, in most cases students do not finish in four), desire career counseling!

Find out how soon you’re eligible to meet with a career counselor, once you have committed to a college. Are you eligible before orientation, or is it part of the orientation process? Is it something you can do after summer orientation, or do you have to wait till the regular academic term starts. Do not be afraid of meeting with a career counselor – they’re there to help, take advantage of their resources!

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.

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!