Biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, zoological anthropology. Biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, biological physics. English, literature, film and video studies, communication studies, language studies, women’s studies. Computer science, social sciences, natural sciences, political science.
To be or not to be a lawyer, a doctor, an activist, a politician, an artist, an astronomer, a French fry flipper or gas station attendant – oh, the possibilities.
For many students, the choices that await them once they arrive at the University are limitless – and let’s not forget overwhelming.
However, the University does provide help and special services for students, especially for the two kinds most commonly found on campus: Those with a path and those undecided.
The first piece of advice students walking into the University’s Academic Advising offices will find doesn’t have much to do with paths, said Cathy Conway-Perrin, an associate director of LSA Academic Advising. Instead, it’s about steering clear of paths, at least at first.
“The thing that we would stress the most is that they explore their interests, try to branch out,” Conway-Perrin said.
Most students, even those who already believe they know what they want to do with their post-college lives, will benefit from additional exploration.
“I came to school wanting to be a doctor, but through exploration and mishap, I discovered I liked my communication studies classes much more than biology, chemistry, physics and calculus,” LSA senior David Levy said. “Unfortunately for my parents, I decided medicine wasn’t the profession for me, but at least I figured it out before suffering through medical school.”
Most students eventually stop exploring and declare majors and minors -the most popular concentrations at the University include psychology, biology and English – and finish with either a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.
Although the requirements for each major are different, the process of choosing a major is fairly simple, and many students find themselves going through it several times during their college careers.
No matter what, those seeking to obtain a BA or BS must fulfill distribution requirements in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, math and symbolic analysis and creative expression. They must also become proficient in a foreign language, take a Race and Ethnicity class, a quantitative reasoning course, introductory composition and take an upper-level writing class during their junior or senior year.
Despite all the requirements, Conway-Perrin said most University students are successful in graduating in four years, as long as they declare a major by the end of their sophomore year.
“It’s usually pretty easy, (but) statistically it doesn’t really look like it,” she said. “There are so many different options that we don’t have a set schedule that we recommend. We recommend that they take a language right away so that they don’t have a gap between their high school study and their studies here. There really isn’t a set map.”
But some students do choose to spend more than four years in undergraduate studies, due to various factors, including the economy and study abroad options.
“They are pacing themselves a little differently to get more out of it or to pursue some different things that they may not have gotten out of it otherwise,” she said.
For others, whose interests are either too wide or varied to be contained, the University offers a Bachelors of General Studies degree.
Students seeking a BGS degree have to follow different requirements to graduate -they don’t have foreign language or distribution requirements and are required to take more upper-level courses. However, the degree gives students time to explore and allows them to take a wider variety of classes.
Some people choose not to receive a BGS because of it’s supposed bad reputation, but Conway-Perrin said employers don’t look down on students who major in general studies, and some even prefer them.
“Career Planning and Placement has done follow-up studies with employers, and they hire or admit BGS degrees at the same rate as everybody else,” she said, adding that success is more dependent on the student than the employer and how the student describes their situation.
“It’s more like, my interests didn’t fit in with the defined majors, so I went and took the initiative to create my own major” than saying I couldn’t choose a major and slacked off, she said.
Whatever students choose to do, there is always another option available if they change their mind, and Conway-Perrin said students should take their time and realize college is not like high school.
“I guess the other thing that we would stress is the transition issues. Students coming in their first year don’t always realize how different it is,” she said. “A lot of students come in, and they are very bright, but they were used to doing well in high school without having to work very hard.”