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Opinion

Ask Colleen: Business or pleasure?

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November 16, 2016

Dear Colleen,

 I’m a freshman, and I’m still deciding on my major. My parents really want me to go into business or teaching because it’s more reliable. I’m not really interested in those things and want to go the more creative route. How can I tell them this?

From,
Doesn’t Want to Screw up

Dear Doesn’t Want to Screw up,

The good news is that you still have time to decide on a major; don’t feel rushed just because other people around you are declared. I’ve known people who have changed their major five times before they settled on one, and I’ve known people who have stuck with the same one from the very beginning. If it makes you feel any better, I changed my major right before this semester started and it’s my senior year.

Enjoy this time being undecided. There are so many general education classes that you have to take in order to obtain your degree anyway. Take this as an opportunity to explore different classes to see what you like. Try classes out of your comfort zone. Some of my favorite classes were the least expected ones.

I took Creative Writing (English 262) my sophomore year, and I was terrified when I first signed up for the class. With no experience writing creatively, I thought that I was going to be surrounded by solely creative writers. I was afraid to take a class in which I had no experience, because I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t preform up to the same standards as my fellow classmates.

To my surprise, there were other students who had no idea what they were doing, as well. The class was full of all different major and interests. Some had to take the class as a requirement, and then there were the students who just wanted to try something different. That class ended up being one of my favorite classes I have ever taken while in college.

Regardless of what you decide as a major, I recommend taking as many varying general education classes you can. You never know what class may lead you to finding another passion of yours.

Another good way to find out about great classes or professors is to talk to other students. Students are really going to give you the inside scoop on the class and be honest with you about it. You can look up the class or professor online and that gives you an overview of the class, but that doesn’t tell you what the class or professor is really like or what you should expect from the class.

I like discussion-based classes, because I can’t sit through a lecture. I’d rather write papers than take exams. An online synopsis about the class isn’t going to tell me those details that are important to me. Personally, I think firsthand experience from a student is much more informative than a short blurb about the class online.

I’m an English major, and I’ve never taken a management class in my life, but I’m taking one next semester. One of my friends in the class praised a certain management professor, so I decided to take the class. With it being my last semester here, I wanted to try something different. Besides, it feels as if I have taken every literature class available and I definitely need a break from reading three novels every week.

As far as telling your parents, I wouldn’t worry too much. College is the time to explore your options and to find what you like. Remember, you are the one getting the degree, not them. For every parent, they want to see their kid succeed and do well in life. I hate to break it to your parents, but a business or teaching degree isn’t any more reliable than a history degree.

What I am trying to say is that nothing in life is concrete or guaranteed. Just because you get a business degree doesn’t mean you will automatically get a job out of college. It’s about how you use your skill set and personality to sell yourself regardless of the degree you have.

One last important piece is to work closely with your advisor on the classes you are taking. She or he will be able to make you stay on track and take classes that will meet graduation requirements. I’ve heard the horror stories from students who’ve taken classes that they didn’t need or missed taking a class they needed. This really put them in a bad place because they either fell too short of their requirements or now have to wait another year to take a class.

Take various classes, but just make sure you are being conscious about how this will impact your graduation date. I would imagine that you probably want to finish up your undergrad in about four years. Again, reach out to other students about this, too. Learning how to read your DAR can be very challenging the first couple of times. I actually learned how to read mine by asking my RA freshmen year. Talking to your advisor and fellow classmates will help you along the way.

You say that you don’t want to screw up, but you have already come this far. Just keep doing what you are passionate about and find a way to make a living doing it. Besides, you’ll be miserable if you stick to a major you aren’t that excited about.

I would also advise you to talk to as many people as you can who share the same creative bug you have. Making connections and networking will go a long way. Those connections you make now could potentially benefit your future, as well. As cliché as this sounds, just keep doing you and everything will fall into place.

Best,

Colleen

Colleen Brown is a student at UW-River Falls.