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Exploratory advisors discuss how to choose a major

By Mitali Pradhan, October 28 2020—

On Oct. 1, the Student Success Center hosted a Zoom workshop with Exploratory Advisors. The purpose was to discuss the process of choosing an undergraduate major. The key aim of the workshop was to provide a comprehensive overview such that students came away equipped to explore programs independently.

The workshop covered the process of exploring different degrees, sources to find more information and processes for applying for a Change of Program. In a poll taken during the workshop, 33 per cent of students were attending to learn more about the exploration process for choosing a major and another 33 per cent stated they were looking for more information for the Change of Program application process.

Deirdre Mooney, an Academic Advisor for exploratory students in the Student Success Centre, works to support students thinking of making changes to their program or looking to explore a variety of degree options.

“Exploration is a process and it may take some time for you to decide what your choice of program is going to be,” stated Mooney.

Students looking to choose a major are encouraged to follow three steps: Reflect and Connect, Gather Information to Determine Options, and finally Evaluate and Decide.

The purpose of following these steps is to encourage students to be mindful of their interests and focus on making an informed decision through a systematic approach. The three main stages of the exploration process highlight the fact that choosing a major requires significantly more thought than an average decision.

The first stage, Reflect and Connect, encourages students to critically evaluate and connect what motivates them, their personality traits and academic interests with programs offered. A prominent career development theory states that, out of six personality traits, individuals have specific traits that they express more than others. Aligning a career with an individual’s personality traits can translate to higher satisfaction. 

Students can apply this theory to evaluate characteristics of a degree program that they relate to. However, Mooney cautioned that this stage is commonly rushed or overlooked altogether. She highlighted the importance of self-reflecting in order to make an informed decision.

In the second stage, choosing resources to gather information is closely linked to motivations for choosing a particular major. While most students decide on their major based on relatability to a future career, this approach has its disadvantages.

“The reality is that most degrees and careers are not directly linked, and university is not necessarily about providing students with direct career skills,” stated Mooney. “The reality is that students can get jobs with any degree.”

Mooney also stated that there are misconceptions regarding certain degrees being better in the marketplace than others. While certain careers, such as teaching, nursing and engineering, do require a specific degree, there are many others which do not have these strict requirements.

Through these steps of reflecting and gathering information, it is important to record important findings on specific programs.

“It is hard to evaluate what your options are if you can’t remember the specifics about your options and why you are choosing them,” Mooney said.

In the third stage, Evaluate and Decide, students are encouraged to critically think about majors which are realistic and those that they find interesting majors to decide on a single major they are interested in pursuing.  

After following these steps, students in open studies can apply for admission into a faculty with the ‘Apply Alberta’ application. 

Students interested in a Change of Program can apply on “myStudentCentre” by changing faculty, degree type or major. A Change of Program application is also used to add a minor or a certificate to a program. There is only one application for a Change of Program per year and, if declined, the student can remain in their current program and apply again the following year.

Students are encouraged to look through admission requirements for the program they are interested in pursuing prior to applying. These include program requirements for a competitive GPA based on either high school or university level courses.

“All degree programs require students to have completed the required high school courses regardless of their university experience,” stated Mooney. “Some degree programs do have specific university level courses as prerequisites but most do not.

“It is absolutely paramount to speak to a program advisor in your desired faculty.”

The Change of Program application opened on Oct. 1, 2020 and the deadline to apply is Feb. 1, 2021.

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