Deciding on a Major and a College

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Decisions. We make them all the time. To wake up or stay asleep? To eat pizza or get ice cream? To go to college or pursue another passion after high school? The right decision varies depending on the person.. the situation.. the consequences.. and some decisions can be really tough.

For example, how in the heck do you decide where you’re going to go college? And on top of that: what should you major in?

Well, hopefully I can help you out with this decision! When I was making my own choice as to where to go to college, there were a few things I considered based on my circumstances. The first thing I tried to determine was what I was interested in studying. I didn’t pick just one thing… you can have a couple interests. Then I looked at schools that offered most of these options and went from there.

Use some of the advice below to see if a college and a major might be a good choice for you.

If you are undecided about what to major in…

First of all, don’t worry about entering college undecided – about 1/3 of incoming freshman are undecided and of those that have declared a major, 80 percent aren’t certain they’ve chosen the right one. Taking various general education courses can help you narrow down your decision of what to major in. And one of the great benefits to attending UW Oshkosh is there are tons of general education courses that count towards a large variety of majors.

So you’ve got time. Now ask yourself: What are my passions, dreams, talents and interests? Write down everything that comes to mind. If you can’t think of anything… or if you’re not sure that you’re on the right track, you can take a skills test to evaluate your strengths. For instance, UW Oshkosh has free skills tests for students available on their website.

You can also find work or volunteer experience in your areas of interest because they may lead to your future career path – or at least help you understand what you like or dislike. For instance, Sarah (Sarah at UWO) discovered her passion for business technology through a summer job in an IT department where she was able to get a feel for the business atmosphere and learn some basic programming skills. You might discover that you love working with animals through a dog-walking volunteer gig at the local humane society. Or you might find that you have a knack for helping children with autism through your work at a day care.

Overall, just try new things and think outside the box. You’ll never know if you like something unless you give it a fair chance.

… But if you don’t have a solid idea of what you want to study, how do you pick a college?

College is a large investment, right? You’re investing good chunk of time and money in the hopes of someday getting your dream job and growing as a person. As such, you need to make sure to thoroughly evaluate your options and make the decision that is best for you. Not for your boyfriend/girlfriend/friend.

It can be hard enough to decide where to go to college even if you’re 100 percent sure of your career path because schools may offer similar academic programs. In these instances, it’s a good idea to do your research: look online, talk to current faculty/staff and chat with students – when available – currently studying in your program of choice.

If you’re  undecided about your major – you’ll follow a similar approach.

First, do your research. Does the college offer introductory courses in your areas of interest? These classes are key. So key, in fact, that UW Oshkosh requires all students to take an introduction class (well, for most programs anyway) to their intended major before beginning upper level courses. I came to UW Oshkosh as a business major; therefore, I took the Intro to Business class that discussed all the different business majors UW Oshkosh has to offer.  This class not only informed me of business majors I didn’t even know existed, but also helped me realize business wasn’t the field for me. Which leads me to my next point…

Does your potential school offer a wide variety of majors? It’s good to make sure that they have a few options you like before committing. For example, I decided to switch my major from business to secondary education during the first week of my second semester. UW Oshkosh offers 60 different majors and programs (a full list of which can be found at here) and education is one of them. This made it convenient and easy to switch my major without having to switch schools.

Even better than that — I knew that the programs offered at UWO were quality! I didn’t stress about switching to Education because I knew UWO had a reputable program. The same goes for a bunch of majors here. UW Oshkosh offers high quality education in a wide variety of majors and is ranked on a national level for many. Look for a college that is accredited in many different areas, specifically your particular major.

You can also try talking to faculty and staff in various departments, even after you’re a student. These professors have a good idea of what their programs are all about and can probably give you a sense for what the job outlook in those areas might be post-graduation. They’ll also be able to give you some suggestions for other skills you should be learning if you’re interested in a certain program. As an example, many Journalism students may choose to take a business, art or radio/tv/film minor to compliment their skill set. It all depends on what your end career goal is. :)

And finally – talk to current students! Social media is a great place to go to easily connect with students enrolled at a particular school. At UW Oshkosh there are a bunch of students on Facebook that have pages set up (like mine!) where you can go specifically to ask questions and get a feel for what student life is like on campus. Make sure to utilize these student resources to get a first-hand look at what it is like to go to school somewhere.

Though all this information may seem overwhelming at first, taking the time to discover what major/college match up works the best for you will be very beneficial. Good luck with these big decisions! If you have any more questions, feel free to “like” my page Alissa at UWO. Hope to see you on campus this fall!


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