How do I choose a major?For many students, one of the most difficult tasks facing them is choosing a major. The path to choosing a major will be different for different people; some students have known what they wanted to major in since they were infants, while others get into their junior or even senior year without finding their passion.
It's important to note that discovering your major is a process, and may take several semesters of work on your part. For some students, just taking an introductory course in the subject will tell them what they need to know, while others won't know for sure until they've had experience as a research assistant in the field. Whatever your process, advisors are here to help all along the way.
Here's a list of things you can do to explore possible majors. Some are easier than others. Some may take an hour while others take a semester or longer. Some will work for you and some won't.
Whichever you decide to do, you should:
- Treat the process like one of your jobs or one of your classes (i.e., "This semester I'm taking Math, Art History, and Choosing a Major.")
- Set specific goals. For example, "By the end of this semester I'll explore my top five majors, try to narrow them to three, then meet with the department advisors for those majors."
- Work with advisors throughout the process. Advisors can be outstanding partners in this process. They can help you discover your own interests, help you set your goals, and can be a wealth of information, too.
Review Available MajorsMake a list of the different majors available to you and cross off the ones you know you're not interested in. If you can narrow it from over 100 down to 10 or 20, you've really accomplished something.
Attend Departmental Information SessionsMany departments on campus provide information sessions at the first of the year that can fill you in on all kinds of inside information: not only how to apply and graduate, but also research, internship, and career opportunities. You might hear from other students already in the major as well as advisors, faculty and departmental administrators.
Talk with a Career CounselorAlthough majors and careers are certainly not the same thing, the same skills that make career counselors good at helping people find their career passion might be directed to help you find your academic passion. Stop by or make an appointment with a counselor at either the ACC (LC402) or Career Services & Student Employment (LC409). Also check out the resources available in the Career Library at the top of the stairs on the fourth floor of the Losee Center.
Talk with Department AdvisorsDepartment Advisors are often some of the best resources on campus because their knowledge of their department spans the continuum from minute details about degree requirements, faculty, and courses (e.g., "That course is only offered every other year, and you never want to take it at the same time as this class.") to broad intellectual issues of theory and philosophy (e.g., "Professor X's research all springs from her theory of X, Y, Z"). They can help you form a picture of what faculty in that major like and want and what students in that major like and want.
Talk with Students Already Declared in the MajorTo get the ultimate insider's view, talk with other students. Find out what drew them to the major, what they hope to do in the future, what the good opportunities are.
Talk with Faculty Members in the MajorPerhaps you're thinking of majoring in an area you're taking a class in this semester. Talk to your instructor about his or her interests and background in the discipline. Remember…this person has dedicated his or her life to this subject, to its advancement and its dissemination. That's pretty powerful. If anyone could give you the bird's eye view of that major, a faculty member can. If you're not currently in a class, ask the department advisor who to talk with. Faculty are busy, but they will be pleased that you're interested in something they're interested in.
Talk with Family and FriendsPeople who have known you for many years and who know you well may have some insights that you yourself might not be aware of! Ask a family member questions like "What kind of career can you imagine me in?" or "What type of job would use my strengths."
Take the Personality/Preference Tests Offered at the ACCThe ACC offers the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Strong Interest Inventory (SII), both widely used career assessment tools which may also shed light onto your academic interests. You may learn something new about yourself, may confirm what you already knew about yourself, or perhaps see things from a different perspective. In any case, it is fun to hear the interpretations. Learn more about the career assessment tools available through the ACC.
Assess your Academic StrengthsYour chances for success are greatly enhanced if you choose a subject you enjoy and in which you excel. This is one reason you shouldn't postpone taking math and science courses if you are considering certain majors. You need to discover early on whether you like these subjects and can do well in them in college. Likewise, you should determine early in the process if you need to utilize the available resources to help you strengthen your skills and abilities in deficient areas.
Try a Few Introductory CoursesLook over the list of introductory courses available in the catalog that look interesting and might be potential majors and register for one each semester until you find a direction you are interested in pursuing. If you decide not to major in the subject, you may be able to count the course toward elective or general education requirements. Check with an advisor to be sure.
Consider a Part-Time Job or InternshipThere's sometimes no way to know if you like something until you do it. Register with Career Services & Student Employment to get leads on jobs and internships.
Browse Academic JournalsTalk with a librarian, counselor, advisor or faculty member about top journals in the disciplines you are considering. They'll be able to direct you to the current research in the area. Don't be scared off; if you're new to the subject you probably won't understand a lot of what you read. But you might find some nuggets of interest to latch onto. Just the titles of the articles might be enough to spark an interest.
Participate in Undergraduate ResearchThere is an astoundingly huge amount of research going on at all times in many of the departments at UVU. Many of those research projects rely on undergraduate research assistants to get the work done. Take advantage of one of the great resources that UVU has to offer, and try your hand at research. For many students, doing the actual research of a discipline can be just the spark needed to light a passion.
Utah Valley University has a reputation as an outstanding teaching institution where faculty is encouraged to pursue scholarly and creative activities along with participating in our global engagement initiative. This vision involves students and their ability to pursue graduate or professional degrees. It also emphasizes that students should be leaving our institution with a thorough and rigorous understanding of the scholarship, creative, and research processes. Additionally, we hope to expand the horizons of our students by encouraging awareness of global engagement and study abroad. Our vision also encourages and aids faculty to pursue and excel in scholarly activities, research, and artistic creation including publications, grants, exhibits, and performances.
Go to an Academic ConferenceAll academic disciplines have conferences at least once a year. They cost money, and may not be held locally, but if you have the opportunity to attend one, this may be very helpful to get an idea of those involved in the industry. Talk to your advisor or a faculty member to learn more about professional conferences in your area of interest.
*Adopted from the University of Washington, Seattle website.
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