Hello Bear Family!
Today’s topic is about the biggest reason your student is here at MO State: academics. “What’s your major?” is probably the most common question college students get asked. A student’s major is an important symbol. It gives insight into aspects of their character such as what knowledge/skills they have, the classes they take, the people they know, and the future careers they can pursue. However, the most fundamental part of higher education can be one of the most difficult choices. Many students have not declared a major yet and many others change their majors. Furthermore, there are others who have doubts about their current field of study and consider changing. At this point in the year, it’s common for students to feel this way as they reflect on their experience thus far. Academic indecisiveness is a very common aspect of the college experience.
I was the king of being academically indecisive when I was an undergraduate. When I committed to being a Bear, I was intending to be an Athletic Training major. When I arrived at MO State, I became a double major in Socio-Political Communication and Broadcast Journalism. The following semester I became a double major in Entrepreneurship and Dietetics. At the start of my sophomore year, I dropped Dietetics. The summer before my senior year (yes, senior) I changed to History. Later that same semester, I changed back to business as an Administrative Management major, which I graduated with a degree in this past December. As you can tell, I was all over the place going through college. It was not easy going through 7 semesters of academic indecisiveness. It was a really tough journey and it took a lot of support to get through.
If your student ever feels academically indecisive, here are some tips from my experience for effectively helping them through it:
- Go beyond “How’s school?”
This is the second most common question that college students get asked. Every student has their routine answer to this question. I strongly urge you to be specific in your questions about academics to your student. Questions such as, “Do you like what you are learning?” and “Are you looking forward to your upper level classes?” will tell you so much more about what your student is experiencing. If your student doesn’t like what they are learning and not looking forward to learning more about the subject in the future, they are probably not in the right major.
- Challenge but don’t criticize
Your student is already going through lots of internal turmoil if they are academically indecisive. They feel great pressure from inside their mind and from their environment to make this huge choice. They may even know that switching is the right decision, but it can be terrifying to go in a new direction. However, it’s important that your student critically thinks through their situation. Challenge your student to think about what sparked their doubts, why they want to do something different, what they want to get out of their classes, and where they see themselves in the future. Your student may not have the answer to all of these questions yet and that’s ok. Keep asking these questions over time. Assure your student that you are trying to be constructive and not criticizing by asking these questions. Criticism will only make them feel worse about their indecisiveness. Helping your student figure out the root of their academic indecisiveness is a huge step to defeating it.
- Encourage your students to make a plan
It can be really easy to live in the moment and have an “I’ll figure it out later” mentality in college. This was a huge mistake I made for those first 7 semesters of my undergraduate life. Changing a major is a long-term commitment. A major can turn into a career that can last decades. I switched majors every time because I realized I didn’t like the future I was getting into with the major I had. Your student needs to know what the future looks like for each academic decision they could make and evaluate if they are willing to accept the outcome if they switch. Our Career Center is a tremendous resource for not only choosing a major, but what to do with it after graduation. I have been to the Career Center many times and the staff is incredibly helpful and will do everything in their power to help students succeed. Here is a link to their webpage with excellent information to give your student direction on choosing a major: https://www.missouristate.edu/advising/58894.htm. Your student should set up an appointment ASAP after looking over this information. By establishing and maintaining an ongoing connection with a Career Center staff member, your student will have professional help in planning their future.
- Understand that it’s their choice and support them
At the end of the day, choosing a major is your student’s decision. No matter what major they have, your student is trying to follow their passion and find what makes them happy. Sometimes it takes trial-and-error and a lot of time for your student to find their direction. This is one of the most important decisions they will make in their life and it shouldn’t be rushed. Let your student know it’s ok for them to be academically indecisive and that you will help them find their way.
Academic indecisiveness is a completely normal feeling to have going through college. Don’t let your student accept unhappiness or be afraid to change their major. There are too many people who have these doubts all through college and get stuck with a degree in a field they don’t want to work in. College is the best time for your student to explore their interests and discover what they truly want to be in life. Every student chooses a major so they can venture into the adult world with the knowledge and skills necessary to do what they love for a living post-graduation. Even if it takes your student extra time, it will be worth it for them in the end to have a degree they are proud of.
Thanks for reading and Go Bears!
Max Wagner, the new Parent & Program Specialist, is from Overland Park, KS and a December 2016 graduate of Missouri State University with a degree in Administrative Management and a minor in History. Max will be entering the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) Masters Program here at Missouri State University in the summer.