Major indecision is common

Bethany Early

Fashion, accounting, zoology . hospitality management perhaps?

At a school like Kent State that offers more than 200 majors and minors, indecision when choosing a major is not uncommon, especially as an incoming freshman.

According to research from Penn State and other institutions, 80 percent of students entering college admit they face uncertainty regarding their choice of major.

Furthermore, up to 50 percent of college students change their major at least once prior to graduation — with some changing even more than once.

Kelley Stillwagon, a career specialist at Kent’s Career Services Center, talks daily with students who are unsure of what direction to take.

“I think the most important thing is to have a really strong sense of who you are. Know your skills, values and interests. You make the decision of where you’re going,” she said.

Stillwagon said many students enter a field for the wrong reasons, such as expected salary or pressure from family and others.

“Faith is taking the first step without seeing the staircase,” said Stillwagon, paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr. “I like the phrase because you must believe in yourself. You need to have faith in yourself that you’ll succeed. Trust that when admissions let you in, they knew you could succeed.”

Stillwagon recommends students use every available resource by working with faculty, professors, school-specific academic advisers and the career counselors at the Career Services Center to help determine the right path.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said.

Drop-in hours are offered in the Career Resource Library from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Monday through Friday. Students may also schedule one-hour appointments with the counselors.

The Career Services Center, located in 261 Michael Schwartz Center, has a service area specifically for career education services in which students and alumni are assisted with career exploration and decision-making.

The services include career counseling, a career exploration course, assistance with resume writing and interviewing, self-directed tests and a variety of other in-person and online resources are available in the Career Resource Library, according to the Web site.

The career exploration course is a three credit hour class designed to provide students with information on the career decision-making process. According to the Web site, students will gain a clearer understanding of their values, abilities, skills, interests, goals and preferred roles and environments.

Another option is the exploratory major offered to Kent students who are considering different majors or are undecided about their major. Each exploratory student is assigned an adviser from the Student Advising Center who works with that student until a major is selected.

More than 650 new freshmen choose this option each year, according to the Undergraduate Studies Web site.

Stillwagon also suggests researching careers by doing informal interviews with individuals working in fields of interest to you. Exploring careers by having a part-time job or internship, doing volunteer work or joining a student organization on campus related to those career interests could also be a great benefit, she said.

Senior psychology major Lauren Mareno is an example of the benefits of exploring career interests. Mareno, originally a zoology/pre-veterinary major, switched to psychology after getting a part-time job at the Kent State Phone Center her freshman year.

“It struck me as an interesting field,” she said.

Also inspired by her volunteer work with the American Cancer Society, Mareno is working to obtain her certificate in non-profit fundraising. She was one of the chairs of this year’s Relay for Life and assisted with the Ohio Collegiate Summit.

“I found a niche I didn’t know existed,” Mareno said. “I really, really enjoy what I do. I can see myself enjoying my job.

“Don’t ever be afraid to try a different class. Don’t be afraid to try something. That’s what college is all about.”

Contact general assignment reporter Bethany Early at [email protected].