Anna’s Pondering Question of the Week Series: choosing the focus of your studies

During my student appointments this past week, the most popular question was about choosing majors, asked mostly by sophomores. I was very excited to see them coming to me with this question at the beginning of the fall semester. The students will still have time to act on my advice and hopefully become more confident about their choice of a major, second major, or minor. So, I would like to ponder now the importance of time and timeliness with regard to choosing the focus of your studies.

Most AU sophomores have a very busy life getting their course assignments done, attending to their jobs and internships, doing extracurricular activities, sports, and of course, having a social life. It’s easy to postpone making decisions when deadlines are still far away. For some undecided sophomores, the deadline for declaring a major at the end of their spring semester may seem to be still comfortably far away at this point. However, postponing this decision may cause you unnecessary stress and disappointment. To avoid that, take steps towards making this decision during your fall semester; don’t leave that to the months of March or April of 2015. If you want to be happy, satisfied and confident with your choice, you need to do a good deal of researching and reflecting, and then maybe researching and reflecting more and again. You do need time!

In a nutshell, my advice about selecting a major is to use a rational approach that you would use to make any decision. Gather information, evaluate it to compare pros and cons, make your choice, and come up with an action plan. Start with gathering information about yourself: your interests, skills, talents, and abilities, personality preferences, and work related values. Don’t cut corners, do spend time reflecting on your own preferences: go deep, do self-assessments.

Gaining a better understanding of yourself will help you in your next two steps: gathering information about major requirements and possible careers/jobs associated with those majors and evaluating this information. Meet with academic advisors; talk to faculty; read on-line and print information on different fields, careers, majors; attend on-campus career panels and other events; pick the brains of your friends and family, etc. Your career advisors will be happy to help you with this process by providing resources and guidance in self-exploration and career research, answering your questions, addressing your concerns, and serving as a sounding board for your ideas. However, YOU need to make the first step: schedule an appointment NOW, don’t wait until spring semester!