Helping Students Pick a Major Come Fall


Helping students pick a college major is one of the most important tasks of an academic advisor. On the one hand, you want to provide support to your students as they figure out what they want to do. On the other hand, you need to ensure that when they graduate, your students are prepared for what comes next. All students are different, and when you are advising them, you should not provide the same set of suggestions every time. The best thing you can do is ask questions to determine their individual priorities and move on from there.

Does the Student Have an Idea of What They Want to Be?

Some students know from freshman orientation that they want to be a doctor or lawyer or some other profession that might require a higher level degree or certification. They might even have aspirations regarding what university they want to attend to attain that higher degree. If that is the case, advising your students is about directing them to a major that will help them achieve those goals. But don’t be afraid to suggest courses outside of the traditional realm. A pre-med student might need to know biology, but a strong performance in another major (coupled with strong test scores) might help their medical school application stand out.

Get Your Students Experience Early

Even if your students know what they want to be, encourage them to get experience early. This can be anything from internships to having the student shadow professionals in the industry they are interested in. Sometimes the student might be able to do this through family friends. If not, be prepared to help by using your alumni network. Lots of professionals in a variety of industries would love to help their alma mater by taking current students under their wing. Start developing that network and job shadowing program now so young students have the opportunity to explore their potential majors in the future.

Encourage Exploration

For some students, they might not have any idea where to begin with their major search. Try using these questions to help guide your conversation:

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

  • When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

  • Who is someone you admire and why? What would it take for you to be those things?

  • Which of your prereqs are you looking forward to taking?

  • What was your favorite class in high school?

Encourage your students to use their freshman year to try new things and get the most out of the prereqs. If done correctly, this exploration should provide them the direction they need.

Higher Ed, Residence Life

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