Choosing a major

Does your program fit with what you want to achieve? Fit with your personality and your strengths? If not, you may want to consider switching into something different before it’s too late.
Victoria Herron went back to being a first-year student at Dalhousie University after deciding to switch her major from science to commerce. During Herron’s first year of university she felt stuck in the science program, thinking the program was her only option at Dalhousie. When she set aside some time to really think about her major, Herron had a life changing moment.
Over the summer, Herron went to Dalhousie’s Career and Academic Advising Centre. She got the chance to explain what her concerns were and completed some quizzes. These quizzes revealed Herron’s personality and interests were best suited for business careers, not scientific labs.
“That got me thinking,” says Herron. “What am I going to do with my Bachelor of Science? So I jumped right into the Commerce program – and I love it!”
However, before changing programs students should think twice about what’s at stake.
“You have to consider a major similar to a road trip between two cities,” the CollegeTransfer.Net website explains. “Changing the destination may mean you will take different roads altogether – and even back track on different roads to get to your new destination.”
“Like the analogy, the new destination and road trip may end up costing you more in time and money.”
Randii Sullivan, a career services advocate at Dalhousie University, has seen lots of students stumble when picking their academic program. Sullivan advises students to take it easy and to set aside time to reflect on what they really want to achieve.
“The first way we help students is really by getting to know them,” says Sullivan. “So sitting down with students and having a conversation with them; finding out what they are passionate about, finding out why they like the work they do – was it a particular project that they worked on, or an internship that they enjoyed and wanted to move into that kind of field?”
However, students can jump into a program without really thinking about what they want out of it at the end. For Sullivan, she decided to take time to travel and think about what she really wanted.
“It was through my experiences of being a residence assistant and working within the career center, being involved in things on campus, and even my exchange that I went on helped me decide that I wanted to go into medicine,” says Sullivan.
Before choosing or changing a major, Sullivan advises students to take time for themselves, and really get to know who they are and who they want to become. If this includes travelling to a new place or just taking a new yoga class, students should do it!
Once Sullivan can narrow down what field the student wants to go into, she is able to help connect them with better resources to help them complete their research before committing to a specific program.
Sullivan introduces students to the Dal online job centre, where students can search for their field of interest and can receive more information about the careers and how to get there. Sullivan also tries to connect students with someone in their decided profession so they can have a cup of coffee, sit back and talk about the job.
To avoid frustration, losing credits, and losing money: students should complete their research before jumping into a new program.
“(It’s about) knowing where you want to go, know what your prerequisites are, have all of your courses lined up, and even start looking at internships ahead of time,” says Sullivan.
By creating a goal and plan at the start of their education, students will have something to look back to when they get lost.
Herron only applied to one university: Dalhousie.
“It was really the only university that I wanted to go to in Nova Scotia,” says Herron.
“Dalhousie just seems probably one of the biggest universities in Nova Scotia, and it has a great science program,” says Herron. “I don’t think I want to be anywhere else. I love being in the heart of the city. I am close to the water and shopping. And again, I love the wonderful programs here at Dal – I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Herron is now a third-year student, and is beginning to get ready for a new school year. As she sits on the counter, legs crossed, wearing her casual business clothes, she is now in a degree she can see herself completing.
“After graduation, I would really like to work for a large national or international company, somewhere here in Canada or even in New York,” says Herron.
“My dream job would to become the Chief Financial Officer of a company, or even to own a company,” says Herron.
What if Herron had not put in so much thought and dedication into choosing the perfect program? Best-case scenario: she would have stayed confused in the Bachelor of Science program not knowing which classes to take or what career to aspire to. Worst-case scenario: Herron could have failed or dropped out of university.
Herron and Sullivan are both on the same page about how experiencing new things can lead young people into a whole new direction in life.
“Students should take time to enjoy their years at university, explore different programs and to take time in deciding what they really want to complete after graduating from university,” says Sullivan.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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