Choosing college major depends on student
Selecting a college can be a tough decision. Then after finding a college, students must choose a program of study. Most colleges offer counseling and career exploration services to assist with the process.

According to Bethani Burkhart, director of career and academic development at Hiram College in Hiram, and Dianna Spycher, director of academic advising, at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, some students still struggle and that’s fine.

“It’s something my office handles quite a bit, students are directed to us if they want to explore, change or update their major,” Spycher said. “What I talk to students about falls in three buckets: what they are good at, what they enjoy and what type of skills they are trying to collect by studying that major. Employers are looking for very specific skills in recent college graduates. It’s framing their time in college in collecting those skills and their knowledge.”

Burkhart said choosing a major also includes determining where a student is at on a personal level.

“In career development, there are four phases: assessment, research, decision making and implementation,” she explained. “What you see for students not sure of their major, they’re in that assessment phase. I recommend them to assess their values and interests – what they’re interested in, what draws their attention and what they want to get out of their career.”

Along with a college’s career and academic development offices, students have access to resources to help make choosing a major easier.

“There are a lot of assessments they can do, whether it’s online or paper,” Burkhart said. “We have several here, but we also suggest they speak with facility members about career and major choice. We even teach a student development course on career and major exploration.”

Spycher said students shouldn’t be shy about asking for help, especially since many of the services are included in their tuition.

“Here, we have academic advising, career services and plenty of online resources,” she stated. “It’s about encouraging students to take advantage of the resources they already pay for. Informational interviews and shadowing are important too. Finding out what you like is just as important as finding out what you don’t like. By going out and talking to people, that’s how you figure that out.”

When entering college, students usually have a general idea of what they’re interested in. But if they have no clue, college guidance can still work with students to figure it out.

“What we’re seeing a lot here at Baldwin Wallace is more students coming in unsure of what their major is,” she said. “They come to college wanting to explore. Exploratory students are handled a lot in my office. We work closely with those students where we match them personally to an academic adviser in their area of interest. We try to be very intentional in how they are advised.”

Burkhart said unsure students are typically met one-on-one at Hiram College.

“We work with them to do career assessments, and tell them to meet with their advisers,” she said. “It starts with a conversation to see where they are at and then create steps that they can take (geared toward’s) what is personal to them to help them decide their path.”

For those who want to switch their major, the process is easy if students know what they want to switch to. The bigger issue may lie in how quickly they want to finish college.

“There are certain things to consider, especially if your goal is to be out of here in four years,” Spycher said. “(Advisers) can look at your plan and explain what needs to be done to meet that goal. Just be aware that making changes to your major can impact the time it takes to complete your degree.”

No matter the journey there, students will know when they’ve found the right area of study for them.

“They should like the course work and feel passionate about what they’re doing,” Burkhart said. “Experiential learning is very helpful here in determining the right path for them. It is so different for every student, so follow your curiosity.”

Spycher noted, “Students know when they are making the right choice because they are excited about their classes. When they are motivated and excited about a class, it’s a clear sign that it’s the place for them.”

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