From the time we are born up through the day of high school graduation, people ask us what we want to do with our lives, expecting us to know in a matter of 18 short years what we want to do for the next 50.
By taking a walk to HPCC and scheduling an appointment in the Center for Student Success, students who are struggling to declare a major can seek out professional opinions and advice. Of the 61 majors offered at the University, students who have yet to declare a major often find themselves crunched for time to find the path that suits them best.
According to Ron Holden, director of students in academic transition, a student finding a major that is right for them is a process that requires time.
“It’s better to plan at a leisurely pace and start early, so then you’re not so rushed and stressed to make a decision,” said Holden. “So it’s better to research and gather all of your information and have time to really let it soak in, and then explore more options. As opposed to thinking I really have to declare my major by this point so I have to hurry up and declare something. So start early in your exploration.”
According to Holden, the first step in helping a freshman choose the right path for them would include a conversation about what brought the student to the university and get some background on their home life. This will make it clear if there were any careers the person gave thought to in the past and also see if there were any motivations for those different areas of career.
The center offers three different tests to help students asses themselves and choose a path of study. These include a self-directed survey, a college score card and a 1 PF which can all tell different things.
“One will give you different areas of majors or studies you may be interested in. One will go from a career route, it will tell you different careers based on some personality traits that you have and then you can look to see what different people with the same personality traits have done career wise to give you some ideas,” Holden explained. “Also, we have 16 PF which gives you a full blown personality profile assessment.”
“As we’re going over the result there is a lengthy discussion,” stated Holden. “It’s not as simple as ‘take this, here’s your major.’”
Holden explained that this process involves thinking and introspecting on the goals, values and lifestyle a person want to lead after their journey at the university.
“I don’t interject, I feel like I am guiding them by asking a lot of questions. Asking them all the questions to find the answer that’s within themselves,” Holden shared.
The questions that Holden would ask a student would include their favorite subjects in high school, what subject matter they exceled in the most and what subject matter the student struggled with the most. Including all of those factors can help Holden determine if a student has a specific major in mind.
“If the student realizes they struggled with the main courses needed in high school for a specific area of study, I would have a frank discussion about the classes needed and a four-year plan to complete their degree,” said Holden. “It is important look at the four-year plans to see if it’s something they know they will really have to buckle down or have to focus and work at to complete.”
Holden encouraged student to try and not have blinders on and have more than one career in mind. If a student chooses a major because of one element of their personality is satisfied, Holden tries to configure a backup route to find another way to satisfy the student’s need.
“My approach is: there is more than one way to get to your end goal,” Holden stated.
After a student has found a major they wish to pursue, Holden recommends the student to do a little more research on the opportunities that the major offers and then talk with the department chair or professors in that area of study.
“We want to get as many people on board as possible with each student’s plan and process,” said Holden. “This way, the student is very informed on what their path and journey can be like.”
For example, if a student were looking towards a major in communication studies they would seek out the help of Department Chair of Communication Harry Paidas. According to Paidas, he would discuss the three different majors within the department to the student and help them decide which area they have the most interest in. From that point, he recommends a student becoming involved in the different student media opportunities on campus and also seek out an internship.
“The major subjects within communication are dynamic and the students who choose these fields need to leave Mount Union with a strong theoretical base and wide array of practical experiences,” said Paidas.
Just like Paidas believes in preparing a student a fully, so does Holden.
“I’m a firm believer in equipping students with all of the resources they need so they can make a firm decision before hand and adjust as they go based off of their own merit,” said Holden. “Any of your professors who are in a specific discipline can give advice.”
Students who come to the university with a major already in mind even seek out the advice from professors to help a student make a firm decision.
“Though I had the idea that I wanted to have a communication based major I refused to declare because I was not 100 percent sure,” Public Relations Major Caitlin Fessler stated. ”Once I took my Introduction to Communication class with Dr. Jamie Capuzza, I really knew I was sold on the public relations major.”
For an upperclassmen looking to declare their major versus a freshman, Holden says that the meeting he would have with this student would be a little different. The process itself is not going to be different, but it would be more intensive. This means instead of having a survey, taking it home and then coming back, Holden would have a longer session with the student to go through more things at once.
“There are several times that sophomores or juniors have come in looking to change their major or direction, or even declare their first direction,” said Holden. “We encourage them to look at the four year plan, and then try to see what kind of time frame they are looking at to complete that degree. We’ll see the possibility of them completing the program in allotted time and look at all of those options. From there, we’ll let the student make the decision. We never discourage a student from a particular area of study if it’s something they want.”