Thursday, June 19, 2014

"What do I pick for a major in college?"


"Go to college and find yourself--and pick a major."  That's been something told to students by parents (and counselors) for a few decades, yes?  I have a better idea--and mine comes from 22 years of experience (that's how long it took me to begin and finish my undergraduate degree.)

DON'T take your major classes in the first two years.  I KNOW your parents are likely to question your reasons, but getting adapted to college is more important, especially if you haven't really paid attention in the last four years of high school--or even middle school.  Plus, the likelihood of a student becoming aware of his or her interests while in college (or other school training) is far greater, along with the new learning of ideas.

May I otherwise suggest that a student take courses that are of significance that may help with prerequisites:  psychology, public speaking (there I go again with that subject!), math, or science.  Remember, I'm speaking from 22 years of experience.

By my own efforts, I found that most schools require at least one course in psychology.  It certainly helps someone learn about society and how to manage him or herself.  Teamwork and cooperative management are part  of psychology--so it pays to have a basic understanding of how we interact.  Public speaking has already been posted as an idea, and for the same reasons, I'm saying that it will eventually become a prerequisite for a degree program.  

Most majors require at least 12 credits in math or science--and I was not good at math, and I didn't want a lab science.  What I took instead for science were courses in biomedical issues, environmental studies, anthropology, and human life science.  They were credited classes, and they were interesting because I was a psych major who wanted to learn about society.  For math (I had to take algebra again, and most degree programs are looking for calculus as well), I took courses in life skills, such as how the post office uses their routing and schedules to effectively cover territory, or how to divide property for an estate so that everyone gets a fair share.  It wasn't about doing math problems, but using my mind to solve ideas. I would also suggest that a foreign language class would help if you're really good at it--but stay at the basic level so that it's not overwhelming.  No one is asking you to translate 14th century Italian if you only need one semester and aren't planning on being a historian in European fine art.

I would also suggest not immediately declaring a major because most students decide by the beginning of their junior year about what they want to pursue.  In my case, I found that I had overlapping classes in psychology: what I learned in the spring semester for the first four weeks was often what I had learned that previous fall.  So I was focused on my major at that time and not having to keep so many subjects in my mind.  There's always room to learn about college classes and the demands it puts on a student--and if you get used to the idea early and learn WHY and HOW to study, take notes, and be responsible, it will be much more rewarding when the time comes when you take your major subject and earn the degree you want.

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