A fear that many people have is being stuck with a “dead-end” job. This is why more and more people are attending college. The expectations of today are that people need a college degree (or more) to get the job they want. Unfortunately, running off to college and getting a degree is not the cure-all to avoiding being stuck. If this is true, what is the answer? This is the fifth in a series of posts to help give some ideas for what to do while at college to give you an advantage in the world. Read the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4.
Let’s Step Back
I have spent some time giving general advice for activities and mindsets to successfully approach the college life. There is one large general step that I have not addressed: choosing a major.
In our awesome career blog, we have some tips about introspection for the purpose of choosing a major. We also have advice from students in specific departments that can give hints about their own major of study. A topic that has not been discussed in our blog for a long time is listing available resources to students who may be in flux with their college study choice.
An Overlooked Tool
I had a student step into my office one morning while I was searching for inspiration for this post. I asked the student, “If you could give students in college one tip to prepare them for what is ahead after graduation, what would that tip be?” This student’s answer was one I was not expecting, hence, the inspiration for this blog post. “Use the APAS Report.” As a University of Minnesota Duluth student, we can access the APAS report and Graduation Planner to determine if we are on track for graduation. What does this have to do with choosing a major?
The student who told me the APAS Report is a useful tool was able to describe the time, when first coming to college, where classes to be taken were discussed and selected by an adviser. The only fact the student knew was that the classes were required to graduate from a specific major. The problem the student later faced was being behind in credits when switching majors. This student was unable to complete many Liberal Education requirements when first coming to college, and therefore found many of the credits previously taken did not help in the new choice of major.
Here is the tip on how to use the APAS for choosing a major: As a first year student, plan Liberal Education credits for your first couple of semesters that double as requirements for whatever major you have selected thus far. While taking these credits that “double-dip,” also enroll in a couple of Liberal Education classes that you know you will end up taking anyway, just because they are interesting. By planning these credits well, you can stay on track for graduation and leave your options open if you end up switching majors your first year at school.
Example: My first semester at UMD, I was enrolled in the old Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program. The classes I took that semester were Calculus 1, Computer Science 1, Acting Fundamentals 1, and Intro to ECE. Calculus and Computer Science were both required courses for the ECE major, and counted for Liberal Education credit. Acting Fundamentals counted as a Liberal Education credit, and I knew I would enjoy the class. These three courses were a total of 14 credits that kept me on track for graduation with an ECE major, and they also kept me on track for when I ended up switching my major to Psychology. Give yourself some time to experience college and find out what career path you really want to take. If you are not 100% certain you know what job field you want to work in, it is useful to do some exploring to find out.
As a student, you have the power to see where you are relative to graduation. Take charge of these resources, and plan accordingly. I will end this post in the same manner I ended the previous four: if you don’t want to get stuck, don’t sit still. Be proactive. Never stop looking at options. All of those clichés are applicable. Whatever you do: don’t do nothing.
If you’re looking for more help using your APAS Report you can find your Advisor here.