Help! Every one of my friends knows exactly what they’re going to major in and I’m going to be undecided forever! Fear not. AppX has the answers.
Liz Pope: Hey everyone! Liz Pope here. Today, we’re talking about something that personally was terrifying for me as a freshman. I was preparing to begin my first semester of college four years ago...ugh I’m really old. August before I started school, I became very familiar with the dreaded, “What are you majoring in?” question. I’m going to be honest. I literally changed my answer every time I was asked. Because, what the heck? How was I supposed to know? If high school senior Liz had stuck to her first major decision, Biology, she would have flunked out of school on week two. Hear me out, some people know! And that’s awesome! But I would take a wild guess and say that the vast majority are lost just like I was, and I’m here to tell you that it’s okay not to know, and it’s even more okay to change your mind. But, where do you start? To help provide some perspective, I have with me the lovely Geralyn Mitchell from the Career Development Center. Hey Geralyn!
Geralyn Mitchell: Hey Liz! Thanks for having me.
LP: So, what is your role at the university?
GM: So, I am the assistant director for career development, and I liaise with the College of Fine and Applied Arts and the Hayes School of Music. I also work with our student veterans to help them figure out what it is that their next step will be from Appalachian, so whether that’s graduate school or their first step in their new career, that’s what I’m here for.
LP: Cool, great! So, what is the thing you love most about working with Appalachian students in particular?
GM: Sure, I would definitely say the dedication that our students have from the minute they step on campus, they are dedicated to the Appalachian community and the Boone community. They provide a lot of diversity to the campus, and to Boone in particular, and so I think that just really working with them and learning from them and the experiences that they have is what I really love most about working with our students.
LP: Okay, so I’m a new student at App, and I’m coming in as a freshman, and all of my friends know exactly what they want to do, and I am clueless and have no idea. Is that normal?
LP: Great! Perfect.
GM: It is absolutely okay to not have any idea what it is that you want to major in, or if you have chosen a major, what you can do with that major. So, do not be afraid if you are coming to Appalachian and you’re not really sure what you are coming to Appalachian to do.
LP: So, what’s a good first step to take if I am feeling overwhelmed, or have no idea where to begin?
GM: Sure, we have the career exploration office, which is located in our student union, and that’s a really good place to go in order to be able to see what opportunities are out there. We’ll offer assessments for you to take so that you can see what majors are available based off of what your personality is, what your values or your beliefs are. And we have some counselors that are there that will help talk you through what you can do with that major. So if you decide that you want to be a biology major, then we can help you to figure out what you can do with that biology degree.
LP: So what happens if I come into school and I’m dead set on being a biology major, and then I decide, “actually, I want to be an elementary school teacher!” What does that look like? How do I navigate that?
GM: Absolutely, when I went to college I changed my major three times. So, that is not abnormal either. I started out as a music education major, went to electronic media/broadcasting, and then landed on public relations. So, a lot of people change their majors and change their mind once they do start exploring different opportunities on campus. So I would say that if you think you have an interest in something outside of what you have decided to major in, to really talk with some of the faculty or the students that are already in that department, and hear their stories and see what it’s like to be that major. Again, that career exploration office, if you’re like, “Hmm...education”. They can help you figure out what route you would need to take in order to change your major, to become an education major, and then again what you can do with that major once you leave Appalachian.
LP: Cool! So, I’m about to register for my first semester of classes, and first of all, I have no idea how the system works. Second of all, what kind of classes would you recommend that I start off with in general?
GM: Sure, so everybody that comes to Appalachian is going to have to take a group of general education courses. So that is a really good place to start. So those are the classes that you have to take, that everyone at Appalachian has to take. You academic advisor can help you figure out the best time to take those courses, and then if you do think you have an interest in an area, it’s always kind of a cool idea to take an intro course in that, which will usually end up being an elective--but check with your academic advisor for sure before you start registering for all of these intro courses. But if you think maybe dance is something that is interesting, or communications is something that is interesting, then you can take in intro class in that and see if that is something that would match with what it is you are looking to major in.
LP: Cool! So, where can I go if I just want to talk to someone about my future, what I want to do, whether I’m a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, transfer...where should I go?
GM: Sure, so there are a lot of resources on Appalachian’s campus. Of course, there’s the counseling center, so if you are feeling a little overwhelmed, or you’re not really sure what you’re supposed to be doing in general, they are a really good group of people to be able to talk to. There is, of course, your academic advisor as far as planning out your schedule for the next semester or couple of semesters, if you’re a planner. And then of course, as mentioned earlier, the Career Exploration Office as well as the Career Development Center which is located in the John E. Thomas building, which is where my office is. We are definitely a place to come and just chat about stuff, as well. Especially as it relates to figuring out what your major is, and what your career path is once you leave Appalachian.
LP: So while we’re on the topic, what are the other services that the Career Development Center can provide for you? I know you guys look at resumes--we’ve looked at my resume together. So what are some other things that y’all do there?
GM: Yeah, absolutely. So beyond the exploring careers, we’ll help you with that logistical piece as well. So, if you want to set up your LinkedIn profile and get a headshot done for that, we can do that. If you want to talk about resumes and cover letters, or maybe some job search or internship search strategies, we’re definitely a place to come for that. We can help you prepare for interviews, talking about what to wear, how to act, and doing mock interviews as well. So, really when it comes down to it, anything that’s career related--were here to help you with.
LP: Cool. And do you have any overall advice for an incoming freshman who might just be overwhelmed? That’s a really broad question…
GM: Sure, I would just say take a step back and take a breath. You’ve got a good amount of time to figure out what it is that you want to do. So, if you are not sure, it is okay. And if you think you’re sure, but you might be changing your mind, that is okay. And if you are sure that what you want to do, what you want to major in is what you’re going to major in, then that’s okay, too. Just remember when you come in as a first year student, you still have four-ish years ahead of you, so to enjoy it, to get engaged, join organizations that are a part of the major or a part of your interests, and really just enjoy that first year or so on campus. While still figuring out still what it is that you are going to major in, or what it is that you want to do with that major, it doesn’t all have to be done in the first couple of weeks of school.
LP: Cool, great advice. So if there’s any online resources where should freshmen head over to?
GM: Sure, so if you’re looking to explore your career options it would be careerexploration.appstate.edu. If you are interested in looking at resume of cover letter writing examples, or seeing what other resources we have for that logistical piece it would be careers.appstate.edu. And when you get to campus, if you’re interested in setting up an appointment with your career counselor, or someone in the Career Exploration Office, you can head to careergear.appstate.edu.
LP: Awesome! Sweet. Geralyn thank you so much for coming in today, really appreciate it.
GM: Thanks for having me! It’s been awesome, Liz.
LP: I'm Liz Pope, this is AppX. Woohoo!
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About Appalachian State University
As the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.