Major Decisions

Leafing through 300 pages of the extensive University Bulletin, sophomore Ajaire Odu finally found something that sounded interesting to make her major. But for Odu, finding the right major involved many players beside herself. She asked a friend to help look through the bulletin to find something that sounded like it would interest her.

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences has advisers that are usually busy this time of year because second-semester sophomores in the school, for better or for worse, have to declare a major. The school requires students declare their major in writing and with the department’s approval before they register for spring classes. For some this process can be full of stress, and for others it is an easily found puzzle piece.

Odu, who aspires to work for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, said finding the right major in Human Services involved more than finding a major that sounded nice. After Odu selected a major, she talked to friends, other students in the major and professors before making the final decision.

Odu advises other students to be open-minded to all their options and cautions against drawing the conclusion that a nice sounding description on a bulletin qualifies a major as the right one.

“Don’t just think it sounds nice. Talk to the people in the department,” she said.

While focusing on fulfilling her general curriculum requirements, sophomore Amanda Saul said she has also been contemplating seeking outside help.

“I will go to the Career Center,” Saul said.

Sophomore Helen McGarity said she found the decision process relatively easy and advises others to study the Bulletin, take as many classes as possible, talk to upperclassmen and Columbian school advisers and visit the Counseling Center.

“Talk to upperclassmen even if (they are) not from this school,” McGarity said.

Robert J. Wilson, assistant director of the University Counseling Center at 2033 K St., said that the office helps students recognize their strengths to find a field that matches their strengths.

The Counseling Center offers both group and individual sessions to help students discover what they like to do and helps them find the right field of study based on the student’s strengths. The process begins with two tests that assess the student’s personality and interests. The center uses the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test to match a student to a personality type and the Strong Interest Inventory test to pin down their interests.

The next step in the Counseling Center’s program is the group workshop, a discussion among five to eight people in which personal experience is emphasized as a strength for finding the right major and career.

“We identify strength in experience. The foundation comes from who you are as a person,” Wilson said.

Taking into account the student’s interests and ambitions, the Counseling Center helps the student choose a major and find a combination suitable to his career goals.

“We explore alternatives and affiliated careers,” Wilson said. “We help you be creative with your ambitions. If a student is a good artist and aspires to be a doctor, he can draw graphics for medical books.”

For sophomores who need help getting started with the “declaring your major” process, the Counseling Center’s career decisions workshops begin Feb. 19. Further information can be found on the center’s Web site, gwired.gwu.edu/~counsel.

If a student is looking for information about job titles, salaries and opportunities, the Career Center is the place to go. The next step in choosing a major or deciding what career path to take, according to Wilson, is a visit to the Career Center.

Jonathan Ferguson, assistant director of career services at the Career Center, described two possible scenarios for students deciding what career path to take.

“Some students choose a career, then a major or a major, then a career,” Ferguson said. “We help when they are in between that process.”

Whichever choice the student makes, Ferguson advises them to use general course requirements to explore areas of interest while getting some experiences from internships or jobs to help them define their interests. He also suggests holding informational interviews with alumni and people in the profession.
“You can read a subject, but I think observation and participation is better, ” he said.

Upperclassmen, who have been through the process and finally made a decision, advise those getting ready to choose a major to think about which courses interest them the most and what they really do not like.
Senior Gina Nunez emphasized the importance of talking to people who have already gone through the process of choosing a major, including advisers, professors, parents, upperclassmen and older siblings.

“Look at the classes you have taken. If you like a specific class, try to see if you can make a major out of it,” Nunez said.

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