Choosing a major: College’s fork in the road

By Scott Lariviere, Staff Writer

Decisions, decisions — it’s what college makes you do.

More specifically, what crucial decision do you have to make? The answer: your major. Yes, it can be stressful, but it sure is fulfilling.

Coming into the University as a Mass Transfer student was a rather smooth transition. Declaring a major was easy with the help of an advisor at my prior school, Bristol Community College, so meeting with an advisor here at UMass Dartmouth gave me confidence in choosing my major.

Knowing what you want to do after college makes choosing a major very easy, but what if you don’t know what you want to do? Maybe you have some ideas, but you’re not sure exactly what your “calling” is.

Sitting down with an advisor is the best option if you don’t know exactly what your career goals are or if you are undeclared and nervous about what to choose.

For me, choosing to be an English major, with a focus in Writing, Rhetoric, and Communications, was a decision that came from meeting with an advisor, and discussing what options I was interested in after college is what lead me to my degree.

A big part of choosing your major is knowing what you like to do or what you are good at. For instance, I enjoy reading and writing. Therefore, my career ideas for the future revolve around some form of teaching, communication, or writing.

Although I can’t do math, I do have a deep respect for people who can solve equations and work with mathematical formulas because that most certainly is not my forte. So, it would not make sense for me to declare a major in math.

Now, before leaving high school, this was a decision that was already cooking. I had the opportunity in high school to take some form of career placement test. We sat in a computer lab and answered a series of questions about our interests and what we may potentially like to do in the future.

This wasn’t helpful to me, but it did give me a solid understanding of what careers not to go into.

So, I went to Bristol Community College to satisfy all the basic courses and declared myself as a Liberal Arts Professional while there, but I knew that I was coming to UMass Dartmouth after BCC.

For a little while, I wrestled around with ideas on what exactly I wanted to do, but it took a real, face-to-face conversation with an advisor at UMass Dartmouth to try to figure out what I wanted to do.

As I mentioned before, I had met with an advisor at BCC, but I still needed some guidance. Handling such a huge decision alone was stressful.

Asking friends or family for advice wasn’t helpful either. The challenge here is that most people offered advice from their own perspective, suggesting what they would do or what they would like to do.

However, an advisor is a refreshing experience because they have no bias. I walked into the Advising, Support, & Planning Office in the Foster Administration Building, and they saw me right away.

I knew to go there because, when I came for a tour of the campus, I was pointed in that direction after mentioning I wasn’t sure what to sign up for.

Through using this opportunity to talk to my advisor and express my interests, I figured out I wanted to go into English. The beauty of that experience was that I wasn’t pushed in the English major direction either.

Once I decided my major would be English, I was assigned an advisor. At first, I didn’t go see my assigned advisor right away. I was still getting my feet wet and trying to adapt to my new surroundings.

One of my struggles in the beginning was navigating my way around the COIN system. I had signed up for classes and was set to go but I didn’t realize that I signed up for a course that was already satisfied at BCC.

I hadn’t gotten used to the COIN system yet and signed up unwittingly. I went to the Advising, Support, & Planning Office again because I realized I was familiar with most of the content on the syllabus.

Sure enough, the advisor who saw me that day informed me that I wasn’t getting credit for that course. He immediately helped me switch classes.

For me, choosing a major wasn’t simply sitting down and choosing one. Before I could make a final decision, I had to learn to utilize campus resources, or else find myself lost and stressed in the decision-making process.

Now, in my final year at UMass Dartmouth, all that stress is a memory. I was uncomfortable at first with making such a weighted decision, but now I feel fulfilled. However, this feeling is largely due to the help I was able to receive from the advisors here on campus, and my college experience has been better because of it.

Of course, one is never really done making decisions, so where do we go from here?

Photo Courtesy: Rachel C. King


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