Choosing a major, less pressure than expected

Freshman year of college is a clear, definitive moment when one decides to leave an old life behind to better his- or herself through education. But it can also be a stressful, confusing and downright scary step with the many decisions that fall onto an individual.

Questions pertaining to major selection top the list of many college-goers’ decisions to be made. What major should be chosen? If a firm decision can’t be made, what should the plan be when signing up for classes? How bad is it to switch majors — finically or even to a future employer?

“Last spring they changed the title of undeclared majors to ‘exploratory major’ because it’s not the best feeling for students to say they were ‘undeclared.’ The main objective is to try and help students know when they first come to college that it’s OK to be unsure,” Joanne Von Pronay, senior professional academic adviser at the Advising and Testing Center.

If a student decides to come into college as an exploratory major, it is safest to sign up for prerequisite requirement classes that are similar among a majority of the majors offered at UAA. This time can also be used to take lower-level courses in majors that may interest the student. If one is lucky these lower-level classes could be counted toward the final major decided on.

Major selectionDuring this time it is also advised to explore one’s values, strengths, skills, abilities and goals in regards to what is a desired job field for the individual student.

Advising and Testing offers a tool to assist students find their majors. It is called “My Major Discovery” and can be found at www.uaa.alaska.edu/my-major-discovery. Major Discovery is a unique program that allows students to access to tools, assessment and information helpful in selecting majors and investigating career choices.

So how bad is it to one’s future career if he or she declares a major and decides that it’s just not the right fit and would like to switch?

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“While it’s ideal to declare by the end of sophomore year, employers won’t be able to see how many times a student switches majors, unless that student volunteers that information. So it’s not the end of the world if a student finds the need to switch,” said Career Services Center Director Diane Kozak. “Although students get nervous to switch for fear of looking bad, the only way to remedy this is to meet with people in the field, students find themselves interested in.”

There are two programs offered through the Career Services Center that can help students do just that. The first is applying for an internship, which is generally geared toward juniors in college. But there also is a system called “job shadowing” that allows students to meet and talk to individuals in their career fields they may be interested in.