by Erik Heller, academic advisor in the UARC
Choosing a college major is a big deal. When students proudly say they will be attending UW Oshkosh, you might expect “what is your major?” as a common follow up question. Choosing and declaring your major can feel exciting, motivating, inspirational, and affirming. However, choosing a major can also sometimes feel scary, overwhelming, and uncomfortable. As you navigate the transition to UWO, know that finding the right major for you can time and sometimes it might change. Here are five tips from an academic advisor when choosing a major.
Offer yourself time to explore.
Many students entering college, or at some point in their college career, are undecided on their major. If you have not selected a major, your major can be undeclared while you explore programs. We encourage all students to spend time exploring their skills, values, and interests to find a major best fit for you. Taking a class about subjects and careers of interest is a great way to learn about majors that might a good fit. All students complete University Studies Program (USP) coursework, or general education, which helps develop broad skills and knowledge while completing courses for degree requirements. Other ways to explore include studying abroad, working a job, volunteering, or job shadowing professionals.
Give yourself permission to be undeclared.
Recognize that undeclared is not the same as indecisive. Undeclared is the process of selecting a major – indecisive means you just don’t want to make a choice. Selecting a major should be well thought out. As you learn more about your strengths, talents, interests, goals, ambitions, and what you want in life, you will be able to identify the major(s) that best fit you. During this process you will likely also learn about areas you are not interested in, which is important to help narrow down the list of options. Know that choosing a major does not happen overnight (sometimes it can take a semester or two) and during that time you get the chance to learn about all the opportunities available.
Use the resources designed to help you choose.
You can’t know what you do not know. To help you know more about majors, careers, and programs of study, we have excellent staff and tools to assist you. Reviewing the list of undergraduate majors is an easy place to start. Many students choosing a major meet with their academic advisor to explore majors and coursework, complete a career or self-exploration test to identify skills and interests, or talk with a career counselor to learn more about themselves. There are many resources available to help you, all you need to do is ask!
Talk with everyone.
Everyone has a perspective you can learn from. Teachers, friends, supervisors, coaches, neighbors, or anyone who works in your career of interest. Spend time learning from faculty about the major and career opportunities. Talk with current students to learn about the classroom experience and organizations to get involved in. Complete an informational interview with professionals to learn more about their industry. Try to get an internship for a company of interest. No matter your end goal, gaining diverse perspectives will help make an informed decision.
Know that choosing a major does not always choose your career.
How are you supposed to know what you want to do for the rest of your life at 18? That’s a tough decision to make. We live in an ever-changing world where some careers of the future do not even exist yet. Luckily for you, choosing a major does not choose your career for life. Getting a college education helps you learn transferable skills and gain knowledge in a specialty area to prepare you for the workforce. Not all careers required a specific major. It is okay to be undeclared and it is okay to change your major as you find your right fit.
This article was written by Erik Heller, academic advisor in the UW Oshkosh Undergraduate Advising Resource Center.