Thursday, July 19, 2007
Choosing a Major—Initial Thoughts
In all my summers as a career counselor, this one stands out for a single reason—the uptick in the number of incoming freshmen I’m seeing.
I find their initiative impressive. Meeting with a career counselor early on in their college career makes a good deal of sense on a number of levels. In addition to getting some initial questions answered, they have also begun a relationship which will grow over the next 4 years. When I meet with seniors I’ve known since freshman year, I’m well acquainted with them historically. They are comfortable, relaxed and we can continue our conversation where we left off.
But in some senses, I am dismayed by the pressure and stress the freshmen exhibit. Pressure and resulting stress over the question of choosing a major, a perfect major to set them up for career and life success. That’s a heavy load to carry since most college freshmen are just beginning to discover who they are, one of the essential building blocks of good career decision making. Values, priorities, dreams, gifts, talents, interests, and most importantly, calling—all of these are in process and subject to re-evaluation throughout life. And most importantly during that freshman year.
So what do I really want to say to the freshmen on the verge of tears over the ‘major’ question? Unless someone is considering a pre-professional program with prescribed coursework, my advice is to just relax. Give yourself time, a year at minimum, to explore. Try out dorm activities, campus clubs, service-learning opportunities, on-campus jobs and later, off-campus programs. Exploring on the outset will go a long way in preventing comments like this from seniors: “If I had to choose a major all over again, it would be a lot different from the one I chose as a freshman.”