Tip Tuesday: Major Decisions

The weather is becoming cooler, leaves are turning crisp, and younger students are starting to worry about selecting a major. Somehow the panic usually seems to set in about the same time that fall begins. Sophomores are realizing that this is a big year for them with making a decision on majors and many first-year students are feeling ready to talk about the topic after having a month of classes under their belt. Are you nodding your head in agreement as you read this blog post? If so, let’s talk about some helpful ways to start narrowing down your interests to decide on a major.

Where to start?

If you don’t yet have a few different disciplines that you’re deciding between, here’s an activity to assist you in slimming down your options. Take a look at the entire list of majors offered at University of Richmond. You can find the list online right here, or you can also come by Career Services to grab a printed copy of the list which may be easier. Take a look at the list and immediately cross out majors that you definitely know you are not considering. However, if you’re unfamiliar with a major you’re not allowed to cross it off until you do further research to first learn about the area.

Once you have your list of potential majors, whether it’s five or twenty-five areas, the next step is research. Go to the department website for each major and read through the “Why *major*?” and “Planning Your Program” sections. The first page will give you some background on the discipline and hopefully help to answer some questions that you’ve had about why to major in that area. The second page should allow you to look into both major and minor requirements for that area. Look through the classes–do they seem appealing to you? What do you think about taking all of the listed courses? Are you excited? Stressed? Have you taken classes in this area or similar to these before? If so, how did you perform, and what was your interest level?

Also take into consideration other components such as potentially required internships, study abroad, research, etc. This is a road map to the major and can show you what you would be doing as a major in the department. From doing this research see what majors you might continue to cross of your list that don’t seem to be as good as a fit with your interests after learning more about them in detail.

Faculty Meetings

Take what’s left on your list from the above activity and now it’s time to dig a bit deeper and talk to faculty in the department. If you’re enrolled in a class that’s in the major then consider connecting with your current professor to learn more about the major, ask questions that you may have, and see what additional information you can learn from them in person. If you have not yet met a faculty member from that department, don’t be shy! Go to the department office and see if you could set up a meeting with the faculty chair or another professor to talk about your interest. While this can seem intimidating, faculty truly enjoy talking to potential majors about their discipline and to help you decide if it would be the best academic home for you at UR.

Exploration Classes

Depending on what year you are and what classes you’ve taken so far, see if you can enroll in the introduction classes for your top two major choices. While you may be really digging the idea of Psychology for example, if you haven’t yet taken a class in that area it will be hard for you to truly decide if that’s where your interests lie. If you’re not sure which class it the best introduction to a major or how to fit this into your schedule, a conversation with your academic advisor could be helpful for you to map this out.

Academic & Career Advising

If you’ve gone through these steps and are still not feeling comfortable as you think about your major decisions, there are plenty of people here on campus to support you! Your academic advisor should be the first person that you reach out to in order to have the conversation about majors and of course will also be there to assist you in mapping out your semesters to see what classes you can take to explore your various interests. Advisors in Career Services are also here to meet with you about your interests and selecting a major. All of our career advisors also serve as academic advisors on campus so have general knowledge of major curriculum and are comfortable having conversations about majors.

If you find yourself in a place where you’re not sure what you’re next move is to decide on a major then don’t delay–start today! Use the tips and activities above to start some exploration on your own and then considering meeting with faculty, your academic advisor, and career advisors, if necessary. Know that you’re not alone in this decision making process, utilize the many resources available to you on campus. Should you be interested in meeting with a career advisor you can call (804) 289-8547 or stop by our office, THC 306, to schedule an appointment. Best of luck!

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