“I wish I’d known that I would need to participate in certain extracurricular activities as a part of my major.”
Although you may only be aware of the core requirements of your major, there are often extracurriculars that go along with the discipline. While these extracurriculars may not be required, they are often encouraged as a way to get hands-on experience in the field and as a way to secure a job later on. Psychology majors, for example, are sometimes required to complete practicums at local psychiatric institutes, and education majors spend a lot of their time working in schools around the area. Biology majors may be required to participate in undergraduate research, while journalism majors often spend their time working for on-campus newspapers and other publications.Laura, a student at Virginia Tech, wishes she had known how much time outside of the classroom would go into her major. “Something I wish someone had told me before I picked my major is that you can't just expect to attend class and that's it,” she says. “If you want to go far in a competitive field, it takes more than just course curriculum to get you through. You have to be prepared to take on extracurriculars that pertain to what you want to do, complete some internships, and network your heart out.”Internships, which are often integral to getting jobs in a selected discipline, also take up a lot of time, especially if you complete them during the school year along with your classes.
“I wish I had known the importance of internships and completed more of them sooner,”
says Alexandra Churchill, Her Campus writer from the University of New Hampshire. “Where I study, we're required to complete an internship for credit in order to obtain our degree. Even though I didn't really know exactly what I wanted to do (I declared English Literature as a major going into college) and I would never change my decision to become a writer, I wish I had done internships in my freshman and sophomore year to explore my options and maybe figure things out sooner.”
“I wish I’d planned out my classes freshman year.”
Grace, a Hofstra University junior, wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to major in when she first got to college. Although that’s normal, she wishes that she had been able to plan ahead a bit better when it came to her course schedule. “I took a few classes my freshman year that didn't satisfy my major requirements,” she says. “If I had planned better, I probably would've taken on a triple major with Italian.”
And Grace isn’t alone. Although, as Ingrid said, it can be difficult to know what you want to major in at the age of eighteen, there are perks to picking a track and sticking with it. If you know which classes you’ll need to take over your four years at college, you’ll have the ability to plan ahead, and that will allow you to add majors and minors that you wouldn’t have time for otherwise.
Courtney, a sophomore at Indiana University, agrees with Grace. “I wish I would have chosen my major sooner!”
she says. “Everyone told me that I would change my mind about wanting to major in journalism, so I went into college undecided. If I could go back and do it again, I would have listened to what I knew was right, and not what other people were telling me I should do.”
“I wish I’d known more about the classes I would have to take for my major.”
You may have preconceived notions about what your major is going to involve before you sign up, but it’s important to check out the curriculum and talk to upperclassmen in the major so that you can understand what you will actually be doing.
As a sophomore at Bucknell University, I picked psychology as a major because I figured I would enjoy being a therapist. Little did I know, however, that I would be spending three years doing psychology research, because most undergraduate psychology programs don’t teach clinical psychology classes at all. If I could go back and pick my major again, I think I would pick something else – but I would make sure to do a lot of research about it first!
Holly, a California Baptist University senior, loves her marketing major. However, she also wishes that she had looked into the curriculum more extensively before she started taking classes. “I didn’t know that my major has so many math classes involved! Basically all majors have to take some sort of stats class, but I have had a math class almost every semester I have been here. I thought I was going to be pretty much done after my ‘Intro to Stats’ class freshman year.”
Stephanie, a senior engineering major at Bucknell, decided to pick engineering because she liked taking math and science courses in high school. However, she wishes she had known that she would have to spend a few years on introductory courses before getting to the fun stuff. “The first couple years are full of introductory requirements like calculus, thermodynamics, and mechanics,” she says. “Those can be difficult and not as interesting. However, once you get into upper-level electives though, there are a lot of interesting topics you can take courses in. Engineering majors have more required classes, but I've typically had at least one elective every semester.”
“I wish I’d known that it’s okay to switch majors.”
Ingrid, a Seattle Pacific University senior, came into college thinking that she wanted to major in nursing. After a year, however, she realized that she wasn’t happy in her major, and she ended up switching to education instead. “When I switched, I felt like I related to my classmates more,” she says. “I was rather unhappy when I was studying science because I had no passion for it. The process I went through in discovering my major really helped me to understand a lot about myself. Now, my skills, personality, and mindset are focused on education and I love learning about it.”
Ingrid isn’t alone. Thousands of students change their majors every year, and usually they are still able to graduate on time with a bit of summer school or by overloading for a semester or two. So if you hate your major, have no fear – you’re never stuck!
Choosing a major can be tricky because it requires you to pick a focused field of study when you’re at the beginning of your college experience. However, the biggest takeaway here is to do your research before you jump into the major
– talk to upperclassmen, read over the course requirements, and even talk to professors. And it’s also important to remember that while your major is a valuable part of your college education, it’s not the final determinant of your future career. So, get learnin’, no matter that your major is!
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