Starting College without a Major is not so Major

 by Opeyemi Ifafore

Picking a college major can be as overwhelming a task as picking the school itself.

Some people come to college knowing exactly what they want to do, while others need a few semesters to find what peaks their interest.

The latter was true for Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) junior Jenna Emerson.

“When I first arrived at the Mount, I had no idea what I wanted to major in,” Emerson said. “I was recruited to play basketball, and my decision to go here was based on that.”

Over her four semesters at the Mount, Emerson said she had three different advisors who did their best to help her find a major and pick classes based on her interests. During that time, Emerson took general education classes and other courses based on careers she thought she would enjoy doing.

The difficulties of picking a major were over when Emerson’s mom advised her that a communications major could lead to a number of interesting jobs.

Today Emerson is happy to say that she is a public relations major. But only time will tell if is she has made the right decision, she said.

The story of Emerson is an all too familiar one for some MSMC students who are still unsure of what career path they want to take.

Ellen Nolan, director of career development at the Career Center, handles many of the students who remain undeclared.

The two biggest reasons students have difficulties picking a major comes down to whether there is nothing in particular a student is interested in or they are interested is too many things, Nolan said.

The Career Center helps undeclared students with career exploration. Nolan said that picking a major is nothing to stress about, but below are a few tips to guide students trying to pick a major.

Job Shadowing and Informational Interview: Nolan said you should pick a few things that peak your interests and use that as a base. Shadow someone who is in your field of interest and learn from them. Actively seeing what they do for a living will help you decide if this interest is something you’d be willing to pursue.

Ask Questions: You can never ask enough questions. This is all about information gathering. When you meet different people in their fields, ask them about what they do. Do they like it? How did they decide on this particular field? What type of training is needed?

Do your research/Website: Nolan said there are two sites that can be of great help to students – ONET and the Occupational Outlook Handbook. These two sites can help undeclared students narrow their focus. These sites allow students to explore careers they may be thinking about. They provide a summary, the outlook of the job through the years, and what type of training is needed to be in that position.

“I always tell people that getting more information really does help,” Nolan said. “It helps you decide what you want to do or steers you away from it.”