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A Major Decision

Choosing Your Field of Study in Three Easy Steps

May 20, 2011

A Major Decision

by Mariah Proctor

So I’m sitting there, my entire head engulfed in paste so that they can make a plaster replica of my face for use in molding masks even when I’m not on campus for the summer. It was while sitting there – staving off bouts of panic and claustrophobia and completely unable to move – that I had another “what am I doing with my college career?” moment. These moments happen fairly often (like when a teacher requires us to roll down a grassy hill or play scream tag) that I take a step back and realize what unusual learning experiences my tuition money gets me.

Majoring in theatre was a no-brainer for me because in no other field have I ever felt more alive, more myself or more enthused by the idea of attending classes. I know, however, that the choice isn’t quite so obvious for others, so have a couple of pieces of advice to help in the choosing:

  • If you’re starting from scratch, get a copy of your university’s course catalog and just let your eyes scroll down the list and see where they naturally linger. There are probably a few areas of study that already appeal to you; get the course requirement sheets for those majors and when you’re getting an idea of the shape of your college career, be sensitive to what gets you excited.
  • Even majors that have glamorous-sounding names can be made up of classes that are awful fillers and not at all what you thought they’d be. Ask students in those majors how they like them and what they really think they’re learning.
  • Take note of what you think about when you aren’t thinking about anything. Chances are, there’s a major for whatever it is that occupies your unsupervised thoughts and that’s the one you should go for.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Make Yourself Marketable This Summer

by Casandra Pagn

While a summer home from college should be relaxing, fun and regenerative, the three or so months away from school can also be the perfect time to bulk up the ever-elusive skills section of a resume or job application.

I totally understand that many college students need to take any ol’ job during the summer to save some cash for the school months. Whether you are waitressing, painting houses or mowing lawns, there are still a multitude of ways to continue to make yourself (and your resume) marketable during the summer.

First and foremost, internships (paid or unpaid) can often be tailored to the hours and schedule that you’d like to work. But, if an internship seems too time consuming, have no fear. Here are some other ways to make your summer count:

  • Contact local professionals to set up appointments to shadow them. This will give you some insight into that career and it’s something that you can bring up during future interviews to show you’re being proactive in that field.
  • Browse through your local park district or community college catalog and see what affordable, useful classes they offer. An introductory language course is a low time commitment and is a great asset to any resume, as are computer courses in a program that you’re not familiar with. At the end of the class, you will have learned the keys to a program that employers find valuable, such as Microsoft Excel or InDesign.
  • Borrow some how-to books from the library and teach yourself something! There are a ton of books on building websites and using graphic design programs, so why not take check one out and give it a try? It can’t hurt to learn those skills and the library membership is usually free.

Chicagoland native Casandra Pagni spent the past four years in the wonderful city of Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. From watching football games in the Big House to bruising her knees playing intramural broomball on ice, she had the time of her life while at Michigan and embraced her inner and outer sports fanatic by covering the softball and hockey teams for the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily. Casandra was also a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a teacher ambassador and this past April, Casandra graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and earned a secondary teaching certification. She is currently in Chicago looking for a teaching position.


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MythBusters: The College Edition

by Darci Miller

Have you ever watched “MythBusters,” the show that scientifically tests myths and urban legends, like are elephants really afraid of mice or is it possible to walk on water? Now, I may not have a crash test dummy named Buster, but I do have two years of dorm life, on- and off-campus adventures and brutal assignments under my belt. Therefore, I bring to you "MythBusters: The College Edition."

Myth 1 – College is a constant party. Thirsty Thursday is a very real phenomenon. There are people that go out partying on Mondays. Some students come to class still drunk from the night before. But if you venture into the library on Friday evening, there are people there. College is hard work, it’s not all “Animal House.”

Myth 2 – Dorm life is disgusting. Yes, the toilets and sinks may clog occasionally and your roommate could be a vile person who steals your food and leaves garbage on your bed. But if everyone’s respectful, bathrooms are honestly fine and you may end up loving your freshman roommate and living together for multiple years...like me and mine!

Myth 3 – Professors don’t care. High school teachers beat this one into your brain, right? College professors may not remind you about daily readings but they will let you know when a test or big assignment is coming up and are happy to answer questions about them.

Myth 4 – You’ll gain weight. Eat normal-sized portions, throw in a vegetable here and there and hit the gym. This very simple recipe will ensure the Freshman 15 doesn’t even cross your mind...or waistline.

Myth 5 – You’re going to change your major numerous times. It’s fine if you do but if you know what you want to study and still love it after taking a few classes, you probably won’t. Don’t feel weird about not changing your major: Some people are just focused...you’re lucky if you’re one of them!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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Which Learning Style is Right for You?

by Kara Coleman

As a tutor, the question that I hear most from my students is “How do I study?” The answer depends on which learning style suits you best because there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all learning.

The majority of people are visual learners. They benefit from recopying or making their own notes, tend to be good at spelling and can remember where certain text is located on a page. It’s a good idea for visual learners to sit in the front of the classroom, within sight of the board or projector.

Auditory learners remember things well when they are sung or spoken to out loud. If you benefitted more from Schoolhouse Rock! (Conjunction Junction, anyone?) than you did from textbooks, try reading your notes out loud, or set them to a tune. Ask your professors if they permit voice recorders in their classes; if they do, record their lectures and replay them when you get home.

My orientation teacher at Gadsden State once said, “Some people are content to sit in the driver’s ed classroom and watch a DVD on traffic accidents. Others want to get in cars and go have accidents.” That’s not a pleasant analogy but it describes the difference between visual learners and auditory learners and kinesthetic/tactile learners. Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. They like field trips and science experiments and can easily pick up dance choreography and martial arts. These learners will probably benefit from writing notes by hand so that they can form the words rather than just read them or – better yet – engaging in an active discussion about the topic they are studying.

What learning style works best for you and why?

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.


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When Choosing College Extracurriculars, Remember Your Passions

by Katie Askew

It’s the last few weeks of high school and you’re already feeling nostalgic. Your final band concert has been performed, your final basketball game has been played, your last student council meeting has been attended and you may be feeling sentimental because your intended major doesn’t fit the things you were passionate about in high school. Fear not: You don’t need to leave your extracurricular activities behind just because you’re heading to college!

I was in the same place you were last year. My final decision to major in journalism and English felt like an abrupt end to my music career...but boy, was I wrong. It’s important to keep involved in your passions through extracurriculars while also pursuing your major, especially if your passions span a wide range of interests. For example, I attended the Society of Professional Journalists meetings through the School of Journalism and Mass Communication while also performing with the University Concert Band (a performance group for non-music majors) and working as a drumline instructor at a suburban high school. I made time for the things I love outside of my major and I can honestly say that my music groups kept me sane during stressful school times.

The most important lesson is to not feel defined by your major. Simply because you are a biomedical engineering major doesn’t mean you can’t be an ambitious thespian or star volleyball player. Student groups are just the place to meet your needs – the University of Minnesota has over 700 student groups to choose from! – and if you can’t find a group that matches your passions, you can join another interesting one (like the Campus People Watchers) or create your own!

So in terms of extracurricular activities in college, the sky is the limit...unless you join the skydiving club.

Katie Askew is a freshman at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, performing or teaching music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Mac vs. PC: Which One is Right for You?

by Anna Meskishvili

As a veteran PC user and a current Mac enthusiast, I can advise you on both sides of the PC vs. Mac argument better than those silly commercials ever could.

Purchasing your computer can be one of the most crucial decisions in your college career. Clearly, it is one of the most expensive purchases, but also it is something you will use every single day so you need to make sure it is right for you. Much like my article about roommates, you need to evaluate yourself before you run to that glossy Apple store or start customizing a Dell online.

The best place to start is with your intended major. As a freshman, I know it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you’ll be studying but if you are enrolled in the College of Fine Arts for graphic design, the easy-to-use design applications on Macs are vital for an artist. If you are in the College of Engineering and need to use programs like Excel, PCs would be better. I know some business students that have both PCs and Macs because their Macs didn’t have some of the tools required for the courses they were taking.

I had a PC for my first two years of college but switched to a Mac this past year. As a communications major, I have a lot of presentations and Photoshop files on my desktop; having a Mac made compiling, combining and organizing these files much simpler than with a PC. But be wary that sending files from Mac to PC don’t always translate the way you want them to: I had an unfortunate incident when my “Scarlet Fever” campaign appeared hot pink on my professor’s screen.

In short, Macs have many benefits but PCs are still the preferred computer in most classrooms. Test-drive both models for your intended purposes and make sure they fit your needs before plunking down the plastic.

Anna Meskishvili is a rising senior at Boston University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations at the College of Communication. She is part of Kappa Delta at BU and has loved every second of it; she is also involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and Ed on Campus. Anna was born in the Republic of Georgia and considers herself a citizen of the world because she’s lived in Russia, England, France, Brooklyn and Connecticut. She hopes to someday work in healthcare administration communication. She loves to travel, run and learn.


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Are Two Majors Better Than One?

by Angela Andaloro

Deciding what to major in is an important and complicated decision. With that in mind, you may wonder why anyone would decide to take on two majors. Double majors can be great for someone who is stuck between two options they find equally interesting. It can also be great for those who aren’t feeling challenged enough by the classes in the major they’ve already declared. Here are some things to consider when figuring out if a double major is right for you.

How far in your college career are you? Depending on how many credits you’ve already taken, a double major could mean extra time in school. Is investing the time and money it would take to achieve your double major feasible?

Consider what you’re giving up. I’m not just talking about free time here...although a double major does have the potential to be time consuming. Double majoring means not taking electives – classes some students prefer over focusing solely on two subject areas.

How are you doing so far? If you’ve already declared one major, what’s your standing? If you’re struggling with your current major, taking on another may not be the best idea. If you’re unhappy with your major but don’t want to drop it because of the time you’ve invested, consider this: It may take you the same amount of time to start over with another major that you enjoy than it would to double major and keep the major you’re unhappy with.

In addition to these tips, consult your parents, advisor or other double majors (the latter will be able to offer valuable first-hand insight) but ultimately, the decision must be made by you and you alone. I myself recently made the decision to double major and can say I’m very happy about it. Whatever your decision, I hope you find the same happiness!

Angela Andaloro is a rising junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Australian Student Discovers Universe’s "Missing Mass"

by Alexis Mattera

Summer breaks vary from college student to college student. Some work multiple jobs to help defray tuition costs, others intern or volunteer in their field of study and a select few sit by the pool and do absolutely nothing. Regardless of what they accomplish this summer – a semester paid in full, a professional reference or a tan – this student’s “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essay is going to be way more impressive.

Twenty-two-year-old Amelia Fraser-McKelvie, an undergraduate intern with a team at Monash University's School of Physics, recently confirmed she had found part of the universe’s “missing mass.” For those not majoring in science or aerospace engineering, this basically means that scientists had previously detected matter present in the early history of the universe but it had disappeared. Astrophysicists had been stymied by its absence for decades...until advanced technologies and Fraser-McKelvie came along. "We don't know where it went. Now we do know where it went because that's what Amelia found," said Monash astrophysicist Dr. Kevin Pimbblet. Pretty amazing stuff!

Now we have to ask: What are you doing over your summer break?


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Thomas Lee

by Thomas Lee

My name is Thomas Lee and I am a recent graduate of Methodist University with a BA in political science and journalism. I chose Methodist because it had the distinction of being both a university and a private school. When I first arrived at Methodist for the campus tour, I found the atmosphere very inviting. The campus was located next to a golf course near a tranquil river and most of the classrooms and dorms were within reasonable walking distance.

I chose political science as my focus because of my passion for political debate and the inner workings of government. I selected journalism as a second major so that I could write for a newspaper in case a career in politics didn’t work out. I plan to attend law school in the fall and am leaning strongly toward becoming a civil attorney. Eventually, I plan to run for political office.

During college, much of my spare time was spent participating in weekly Bible studies as part of Campus Crusade for Christ, serving as one of the Founding Fathers of Methodist’s Kappa Sigma chapter and performing in theatrical productions. I have also been writing a series of adventure novels which I hope to finish in the near future. All in all, I had a captivating and worthwhile experience at Methodist and enjoyed college life as a whole.

As a virtual intern for Scholarships.com, I feel that I am partially fulfilling the purposes of my journalism degree and also contributing useful information to future college students. I hope that my articles will be beneficial to those who visit Scholarships.com and also give voice to the concerns of fellow students. As a Christian, I feel that God wants me to play an ethical role in the somewhat infamous fields of law and politics and writing for Scholarships.com may help accomplish this.


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Shari Williams

by Shari Williams

Hi everyone! Just a few days ago, I landed back in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland after a long, adventurous school year in Los Angeles. I was at California State University, Northridge as a participant in the National Student Exchange program and now that the program is over, I will be returning to my school, Towson University.

Originally, I didn't want to go to Towson. My choice school was Temple University but after acceptance, I was discouraged to go because of the costly out-of-state expenses. Thankfully, I came across the National Student Exchange program, which gave me the chance to venture out-of-state for a year while still paying in-state tuition.

Choosing my major was a challenge for me because I never wanted to be placed in one box or one category. Choosing only one field to pursue was extremely hard for me. I also had to take into consideration my future finances versus my passion. My freshman year, I was a combined major in speech pathology and deaf studies but after that year, I realized that my heart was in broadcast journalism. Venturing to California sealed the deal and I am now double majoring in broadcast journalism and deaf studies with a minor in entertainment, media and film. Why? Because communicating with people is what I love to do, whether it is through speech, writing or body movement.

Now that it is summer break, I can finally relax! I look forward to hanging with friends, looking for new artists to add to my iTunes, tweeting, randomly dancing (much like the girl in the Sun Drop commercial) and, of course, writing. As a Scholarships.com virtual intern, I plan to share the “secrets” of college life that I truly wish someone would have shared with me during my years of college.


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