Students Find Direction in “Explore Your Major” Class
Choosing a major can be overwhelming for first-year students, especially during the transition to life at college. That’s where the Academic and Career Advising Department (ACA) steps in to help. About one out of four first-year students is typically not sure what to major in, and ACA assists students as they determine what they want to pursue in college and in their career after graduation.
“Six years ago, I had the idea to create a course around exploratory curriculum for undecided first-year students,” said Jennifer Drake-Deese, academic and career advisor and primary instructor of the Explore Your Major class.
The class has been offered each fall semester for the past five years. This semester, 43 students opted to take the course. Part of the coursework includes Focus2, a career interest test that is available on the ACA website.
“After Focus2, we start to look at their areas of strength and the things they enjoy doing in the world. Then we boil it down to their core interests. There is a worksheet that helps them narrow down to their potential majors, and then we have the students start to identify classes they can take in the spring semester,” continued Drake-Deese.
“The worksheet is designed for the student to take to their advising meeting, which is in anticipation of course registration,” added Pat Halloran, senior director of student success. “It gives the student a starting point with their advisor.”
Jenna Bouchard is taking the course because she’s interested in many different topics and didn’t know which direction to go. She was surprised by her Focus2 results. “The test opened my eyes to other majors, specifically exercise science, health, and nutrition, that I hadn’t considered before.”
Sophomore James Kerwin took the class last year. He had a general idea of what he wanted to study, and the Explore Your Major class helped direct him to a major that combined his interests in an unexpected way. “I looked at my experience in construction and my hobby in woodworking. My Focus2 results got the ball rolling for me so I decided to take a few sustainable product design and innovation courses. So far, I’m loving it.”
Through the course, students learn how to register for classes, where to find information on the website, and who to talk to about different areas of study. Students find success after the course because they know who to go and have built relationships with academic advisors and professors alike. Of the group of students who took the first Explore Your Major class, 72 percent graduated from Keene Sate in four years.
While the course only meets five times over the first five weeks of the semester, students have assignments they need to complete outside of class that get them involved on campus while taking steps towards identifying a major. These tasks include attending career networking opportunities at the College, including Student Involvement Fair, Study Away Fair, and Future Fair, as well as meeting with their advisor twice.
“We’re here to alleviate the stress so that when a student feels like they don’t know what to do, they can take steps to do something about it,” said Drake-Dreese.
“I’d totally recommend this class,” added Kerwin. “I think everyone should take it. I think it really helps students clarify the direction they need to go. This course definitely helped me to pick my major.”