With seven schools and more than 70 majors at GW, it makes sense that some students feel completely lost when choosing a major. However, this confusion can be addressed by having workshops that help students explore their options.
Students need a designated time to learn about the various majors GW has to offer, and by hosting workshops that allow students to talk to professors in each department, listen to a panel of upperclassmen talk about choosing a major or get information sheets about the degree requirements, GW would better prepare students for academic success. Rather than having students deliberate alone when choosing a major and minor, students should have support through workshops and online tools to help them make an informed decision.
Throughout my freshman and sophomore years, I felt pressured to pursue a biology major because I was on a pre-med track and wasn’t sure what else would prepare me while also fulfilling my interests. Without support or a resource where I could easily compare multiple majors, I struggled to make a decision on what to major in. Finally, after months of research, I instead chose to become an English major because I enjoy writing and courses in the major help balance out my science-heavy pre-med requirements.
While I made a decision that I am now happy with, not all students are this lucky. Many feel pressure to choose a major early on so it can inform their course registration and ensure they will graduate on time. But with this approach, they are unable to explore multiple subject areas by enrolling in courses before making a decision. If students had different opportunities, like workshops and online resources, to explore their options, GW could help students avoid choosing a major they feel lukewarm toward and limit the number of students who switch majors or are unhappy with their choices.
Fifty-six percent of recent college graduates received advice on what to major in from an “informal social network” consisting of family, friends and community leaders, and just 47 percent received advice from “formal sources” like academic advisers, according to a Gallup survey last year.
But this same survey found 84 percent of people said advice from someone currently in their field was helpful, which shows that instead of approaching major exploration alone, grouping students with professors who are experts in their field would give them invaluable perspective.
Students have other resources like Blackboard and the GWeb Information System, but a major or minor exploration website akin to DegreeMAP – a website that allows students to check their progress toward graduation – would be a great additional resource. The platform could host all the information about each major and minor offered, questionnaires to match students with majors and a comparison tool so students can size up similar degrees and make a decision that best fits their needs.
Of GW’s 12 peer institutions, only Boston University has major workshops, programs and counseling sessions that can help students figure out their major. But Tufts University has helpful resources like a website indicating what jobs students can get with a specific major, and the University of Southern California has “micro-seminars” for freshmen that address more than 60 topics and give students insight into multiple potential majors through short courses.
College is about exploration and discovery, but students need adequate resources to both explore various fields and still stay on track to graduate in four years.
We all have to declare a major, but it should not come at the cost of feeling stressed or pressured. Rather, GW should ensure that exploring different majors and minors can be a smoother and more informed process because that will translate into more motivated students and successful alumni.
Jina Park, a junior majoring in English, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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