Curious about what life in college is like? Wondering whether attending college still makes sense right now, or still weighing the pros and cons of that tuition price tag? What is the value of college? While the “college experience” might be difficult to describe, your choice of degree surely matters.
For this article, I interviewed college alumni for their take on making the most of the academic advantages available from higher education. The bottom line is that whether you’re passionate about STEM, English, Social Sciences, the arts, or something else entirely, a great education can impact the course of your life. With the right guidance during this time, you will be able to make an informed decision that propels you forward into your intellectual future.
However, before we jump into our interviews with college alumni about their academic experiences, let’s clear up some myths. While it’s true that selecting your academic path is an important decision, you should know that there are plenty of resources out there to help you along.
Most of you aren’t locked into the exact major you check off on your application for admission. College administrators recognize that during your college years, you’ll be exposed to a lot of new information and experiences, and likely change your mind about what direction to follow. After all, you’re a different person at graduation than the one who arrived at your first college lecture! So for the majority of you, changing your major once you’ve taken a few classes will be a readily-available option.
Read the terms & conditions
It’s true, and worth mentioning, that some situations will differ from this. If you apply to a capped major, extended program (ie, BS-MD or JD-MBA), or college with stricter stipulations, changing your major could be difficult or impossible beyond a set point. While this applies to a minority of students, be sure to understand the terms and agreements when you submit your application to each school!
Hear me out: you might not even know that your eventual major exists yet. Developing fields like Data Science and Analytics, Science Ethics, and Information Technologies are evolving rapidly. Some parents and counselors might not even know all of the options that will exist for students in the future! Doing your research, and exploring your curiosity on campus, are critical steps to discovering your best-fit major.
So get out there, and find what you would like to study! Part of the beauty of transitioning into higher education is the ability to customize your curriculum to your interests. If you’re stuck or struggling at this stage, feel free to reach out to Empowerly to learn more about how we can help you thrive.
Now let’s hear from some alumni who have been in your shoes about what they discovered on campus.
What is your field of study? What did you like best about your major?
Reflection: I majored in History and appreciated the critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills it taught me, as well as gaining a broad understanding of cultural and social aspects of the human condition.
Reflection: I was drawn to this field because I love to read, write, and analyze imagery. It taught me how to get better at exactly those things.
Reflection: Words travel through time and carry voices into the future. Studying how others have written about love and living is a fascinating guide to the human experience.
Reflection: Language mediates so much of how we interact with the world and how information is shared; being able to see the moving parts is really incredible, and useful!
Reflection: I loved (and still love) learning about the intricacies of verbal and nonverbal communication and exploring how communication styles influence and shape communities.
Major: English and Italian
Reflection: I really liked the way my degrees tied past literature and works of interest to current events both within and outside of the US.
Another way to find information about your future academic path is to conduct research.
After all, you don’t know what you don’t know! So if you’re curious about whether other students in the discipline you want to pursue are satisfied reach out and ask! Most alumni, students, and faculty love sharing their opinions on this topic.
And let’s not forget about how your college major impacts your career choice.
One Business Insider reporter set out to identify trends in the most meaningful careers. The article ultimately offers “19 college majors that may not lead to the greatest salary growth but can still offer some of the most satisfying careers” based on industry research. The top recommended fields on that report include:
- Medical laboratory science
- Pastoral ministry
- Community health education
- Clinical laboratory science
A study in the UK even created a “happiness survey.” In their words, the survey “was sent out to a random sample of 4,203 university students … at universities with high levels of student satisfaction.” The respondents asked students to rank their day-to-day happiness on a scale from 1 to 5. What subjects came out on top?
- Humanities (4.23/5)
- Sport and exercise science (4.07/5)
- Engineering (3.87/5)
- Natural sciences (3.62/5)
- Mathematics (3.22/5)
While every student’s experience is different, these kinds of factors are worth keeping in mind when considering the value of your college education. The value of your college experience depends on you.
In the end…
The opportunities to explore your curiosities and expand your knowledge are the real reasons a college experience can change your life. Not only do you build your professional network, gain skills in a pedagogical environment, and gain independence, but you also could benefit in unexpected ways.
If you have unresolved questions about your specific pathway to college and beyond, remember that the Empowerly community is here for you. Our counselors and experts are experienced and knowledgeable about the exact challenges you are facing. A combination of wisdom and strategy will help you succeed in college admissions. Let’s face it together.