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Stages of Selecting a Major

Use Self-questioning Strategy to Select Your Major

by Professor Dan Close, Ph.D., Faculty in Residence I. Stage One: Identify your interests Which subjects do you like? What do you do well? Questionnaire rates interests, aptitudes, and subject matter. II. Stage Two: Find out more What do professionals in your tentative Major think about the work they do? Activity: Interview a Professional III. Stage Three: Get specific Outline specific questions to get information to further evaluate your intended major. Activity: Meet with an Advisor in the Tentative Major IV. Synthesis

I. Stage One: Identify your interests
Which subjects do you like? What do you do well?
1. Rate the following types of tasks or activities on a scale of 1-4 (with 1 low):
_____Words, books writing discussions?
_____Math, how things work, categories, numbers, science?
_____Art, maps charts, drawing, mazes, puzzles?
_____Leadership, socializing, teaching, coaching, group work?
_____Sports, drama, activity, hands-on, movement?

2. Rate the following types of information used in learning:
_____Theory, facts, research
_____Stories, case studies, fiction, biographies
_____Practical demonstration, hands-on, field study

3. Rate the following topics on their importance to you:
_____Financial income from work
_____Prestige in the community
_____Flexible lifestyle
_____Making a difference in the lives of children
_____Making a different in society
_____Being on the cutting edge of technology
_____Having a family life

4. Rate the following subjects:
_____Math
_____Physics and Chemistry
_____Biology and Physiology
_____Literature
_____Foreign Language
_____Psyhcology/Sociology/Anthropology
_____Art and Drawing
_____Music
_____Education
_____History
_____Geography
_____Economics
_____Movement and Dance
_____Politics
_____Other (specify)

II. Stage Two: Find out more
What do professionals in your tentative major think about the work they do?

  1. Select a professional in the field or major you have tentatively chosen.
  2. Arrange to interview the person—either in person, by telephone, or e-mail.
  3. Collect some demographic information on the person you are interviewing. Ask your interview subject how long they have worked in their current position, age, gender, family, interests, etc.
  4. Cover the following areas in the interview:

A. What is the greatest challenge you experience in your work:

B. What kind of formal training did you receive to prepare you for your work?

C. What is the greatest joy you experience in your work?

D. How would you go about changing or reforming your job to better serve the clients or customers in your work?

E. What suggestions do you have for young persons contemplating a career in your profession?

III. Stage Three: Get specific
Outline specific questions to get information to further evaluate your intended major.
1. Schedule a personal appointment with the advisor.
2. Ask the advisor the following:

A. Describe the students who successfully complete the major.

B. Describe the students who are unsuccessful in the major.

C. Discuss the balance of coursework in the areas in which you rate high and low on the above scales in Stage One.

D. What are the sizes of classes in the major on this campus?

E. What is the success rate in assisting students to gain employment in the field?

F. What are the specific resources dedicated to student advising, career planning, and mentorship of students in the department?

IV. Synthesis
Now you have information and ratings of your interests, and information about professionals who work in your field of interest, plus information about the types of students who succeed in your identified major. Review your ratings and discuss them in the context of what you've identified as key features of your tentative major, and of the students and professionals who have pursued this field of study.