On campus beat: At the U, get help to pick major in one day

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER
  • Star Tribune
  • January 9, 2014 - 4:14 PM

What happens if you’re in the middle of your sophomore year of college and you still can’t decide on a major?

The University of Minnesota has a seminar for that. It’s called “Extreme Makeover: Major Edition.”

Although the U is still on winter break, it will offer the daylong workshop next Wednesday as part of an ongoing effort to nudge, guide and help students to make up their minds.

“Students have to declare a major by 60 credits, usually by the end of their sophomore year,” said LeeAnn Melin, director of the U’s Center for Academic Planning & Exploration, which sponsors the workshop. As the deadline approaches, “they’re getting pretty anxious [if] they haven’t made a decision yet.”

It isn’t unusual for students to struggle with a major, Melin says. Some “have lots of interests in lots of things,” while others are having second thoughts about their original plans. They may start out thinking they want to be a doctor, for example, “but maybe chemistry doesn’t go that well,” she said. “Then they have to rethink their choices.”

As part of the workshop, students take a self-assessment to illuminate their strengths and interests, and explore the kind of majors and careers that might be a good match. Are they entrepreneurial or artistic? Do they like to solve problems or think creatively? It’s a chance, Melin says, to step back from the daily grind of college life and think “about those deeper questions.”

Generally, the workshop — which is offered several times a year — draws about 15 to 25 students, but the same tools are available on the center’s website:

Today, Melin says, students feel more pressure than ever to pick a major that will lead to a well-paying career. Part of her job, she says, is to help them think realistically about life after college. “A lot of times, students don’t know what the jobs really entail day in and day out,” she said. The best thing, she said, is for them to start the process as freshmen, “exposing themselves as much as possible to what their options are.”

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