The ‘major’ confusion among students

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Davis Esplin spent the year before his mission in school exploring, learning and hoping he could narrow his interests down to one major he would enjoy. Yet after returning from his mission, he still didn’t know what he wanted to study.

Choosing a major is difficult for many students.

Choosing a major can be a difficult decision for some students, and for others it is an easy decision. Some students know what they want to study from day one as freshmen, and others don’t know until they are into their second or third years at college.

Esplin has hit a wall when making the decision on which major to choose. However, there are many resources available to help out with choosing a major.

Esplin, an undecided major from Sandy, said the hard part about choosing a major for him is finding something he enjoys and that is marketable.

“Everyone says you need to pick something you love,” Esplin said. “But then you have to pick something that will translate into graduate school and a job eventually, which is what makes it confusing … those two things aren’t necessarily the same thing.”

Esplin isn’t the only student who has had problems in deciding on a major.

Olive Lowe, a therapeutic recreation student, said it was hard for her to find something she enjoyed more than everything else.

“I was interested in a lot of things, but it was hard to find my niche,” Lowe said. “I wanted to find something I could really be passionate about.”

Even though Lowe faced some challenges when trying to choose a major, she was able to work past them.

“I found out about my major through an academic adviser,” Lowe said. “After getting  to know my interests and talents, he recommended I look into therapeutic recreation. I hadn’t heard of it before, but after doing some research about it, I realized it was my perfect fit. I knew it was right because I was excited about it.”

One of the many resources that are available to students on campus is the Academic Advisement Center. According to the Academic Advisement Center’s website, their mission is to “engage and educate individual students to define and achieve their academic, career, and life goals and to progress toward their eternal potential.”

Dr. Karen Evans, director of the Academic Advisement Center, said students have interests in multiple areas, which can make it hard to choose a major.

“Some students have many interests and can achieve in many areas,” Evans said. “It is difficult to choose just one.”

Evans said some of the challenges students face when choosing a major include:

  • Wanting to double major
  • Wanting a guarantee that the major will lead to a lucrative career
  • Viewing a major as leading to a life-long career choice and wanting reassurance that they will be happy
  • Wanting majors they can complete online

To help students in the decision-making process for choosing a major, Evans recommends students meet with faculty or advisers, talk with students who are in the majors they are considering and take career interest assessments offered at the University Advisement Center or career exploration classes.

Another resource available to students in helping to decide on a major is the Student Development 117 course.

Dr. Vaughn Worthen, director of University Career Services and supervisor over the Student Development 117 courses, said this class helps students collect information about careers and majors.

“The course is organized to help students gather desired major and career information (and) introduce them to resources on campus as well as on the Internet,” Worthen said. “It has them engage in self-assessment in regards to interests, skills and values, and how those apply to career decision making. It requires students to engage in informational interviewing and job shadowing to get more job exposure.”

Worthen said some of the strategies taught to help students include:

  • Information gathering
  • Self-assessment
  • Decision making
  • Discussions of confidence and reducing anxiety in decision making
  • Exposure to real people in occupations students are considering

Professor Ray Huntington, a religion professor, said students should use campus resources to help them decide.

“Be patient with yourself, and don’t feel you have to make a decision under pressure,” Huntington said. “Take advantage of any help you can get on campus such as advisement, speaking with professors, other students, etc.”

Huntington said he recommends students explore a variety of options in order to decide what they want to study.

“Test the waters with various GE classes, talk to people, professors (and) professionals,” Huntington said. “Once a student has narrowed the field, they may want to spend a day shadowing a professional to see if this particular profession is really something they want to do.”

For more information on academic advising visit saas.byu.edu/advisement or go to the Academic Advisement Center, 2500 Wilkinson Student Center.

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