Exploring the Unknown

vsBy Vanessa Salman, ’17, Career Services Ambassador

College is all about self-discovery, right? You have the opportunity to figure out if you’re a morning or night person, fast or slow reader, independent or group “studier”. One of the most valuable discoveries, however, is finding your path of study. While many say that you’re not confined to your major in the workforce, picking one that will equip you with the proper knowledge and skills can give you a competitive edge when seeking employment.

Searching for a major isn’t like searching for your soul – it’s not finite. Here at Syracuse University, and most universities, there are countless programs to explore. From physics to political science, engineering to communications, the options seem endless. Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself into the seemingly obscure academic abyss that is college major selection – dive in full-force; you might surprise yourself.

Changing your major or coming into college without one is not a bad thing. It’s okay to not know what you want to study when entering your post-secondary educational career. While many students apply under specific programs and majors, that doesn’t mean you have to as well. The worst thing one could do is to compare their journey to finding a college major to someone else. We don’t live in a homogeneous society: as individuals, we have unique qualities and differing motivations from one another, therefore everyone’s experience won’t be the same.

While this may seem overwhelming, don’t think that you have to go at this alone. There are many resources at your fingertips to help you throughout your journey in finding the major for you. Aside from Career Services counselors, whom you can make an appointment with or speak with during drop-in hours, there are advisers in each department that are more than willing to give you advice and tell you about their program(s). Professors also serve as important resources in guiding you in the best direction. Don’t be afraid to reach out to individual professors if you find interest in what they’re teaching, regardless of if you are able to take their class right now.

When it comes to selecting a major, the best piece of advice I have is to search until you find your passion. That sounds scary, but it’s doable. Find the field that ignites the fire within that you had no idea existed. Sure, coursework can be daunting, and you’re not always going to be gung-ho about doing that 15-page research paper, but if you have a genuine interest in what you’re studying, the sense of accomplishment felt post-grueling assignment is indescribable.

Ask questions, do your research, take a class or two – it could lead to the unearthing of your future career.

Unsure about your major or exploring your options, join us for our Major Mixer & Panel tonight at 5 p.m. in 202 Hall of Languages. Upperclassmen who’ve been unsure of their major will talk about their journey and share tips to help you find yours.

Tips for Choosing a Major from SU Students

Compiled by Tracy Tillapaugh and Shannon Andre, ’09

Major Mixer Panel & Discussion
– Students in 235 Schine during the Major Mixer & Panel

During our Major Mixer event on Wednesday, October 23, we heard many great tips about how students chose their major here at Syracuse University.

Here are six tips that may help you as you determine your academic major:

  1. Take some courses and see if you can picture yourself in the field. You really never know if you’ll like a particular field until you try it!
  2. Sometimes experience can help you decide what you DON’T want to do. One student interned at a company and realized that the field wasn’t for him.
  3. Major doesn’t always equal your career. For example, you can major in psychology but work in marketing or human resources. There are multiple paths for every career.
  4. Get involved on campus in clubs, academic programs (such as McNair Scholars), organizations or with an on-campus job. You don’t have to wait to have an internship to get experience.
  5. A word of caution: don’t just live your major 24/7, make sure to try out other things that interest you that aren’t 100% relevant to your major.
  6. Sometimes you know what you want to do from a young age, it’s okay to be happy and assertive in that decision.

For help with deciding on a major, check out the career research resources on our website!

A MAJOR decision: living my dream at ESPN

By Rachel Eldridge, SU ’10

I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I have a strong stomach and never panic, both things I was sure were required to get your M.D.

Little did I know that I would end up far from where I started out as a biology major at Syracuse University.

Rachel Eldridge graduated from SU with a dual degree in English and Political Science. She followed her passion for sports and now works for ESPN.

Rewind to 2007. I was sitting in chemistry class; not only was I bored, I had lost the passion I thought I had. I was good at science, which forced me to feel like it was the career path I was supposed to pursue. My mom always asked me, “If you had one day to yourself, what would you do? However you answer that question, that is what you should spend your professional career doing.” My answer for as long as I could remember was “I’d watch sports.”

So there I was, a year and a half out of college, working at an intellectual property law firm in Washington D.C., with degrees in Political Science and English.

I was starting to get antsy. I knew that eventually I was going to have to decide if I wanted to go to law school, and if I didn’t, I needed to make a change and I needed to make one that was calculated. With my two degrees, I knew that I didn’t have the clear and overt qualifications for a position in sports, but I figured it was worth a shot. I was pressured into applying, but luckily I didn’t have to cast a net of applications in desperation. I had a job, which gave me time to be honest with myself about what I wanted.

I finally had the guts to do it. On a late Saturday night, I did a quick search regarding employment at ESPN, pretty convinced I had a zero percent chance of getting hired.

In the end, I refused to put restrictions on myself. I took a risk and it worked out, even if I did have to wait an agonizing four months to work through the process at ESPN. I know that it won’t always work out as it did for me, but you can’t convince yourself not to do something because you “aren’t qualified” or because “it’s way out of your league” or because you didn’t major in a specific subject or industry area.

I didn’t have much experience working in sports, but transferable skills and a passion for sports were enough to not only get me through the door, but hired by the World Wide Leader in Sports in the research department as part of the Stats & Information Group. Looking back at my path: from biology to political science and English to sports, I took many turns but am happy with the result. I am not sure how much my specific majors actually mattered, but I do know that I needed a degree to achieve these goals!

If you’re looking for help deciding a major, check out Career Services’ Major Dilemma Drop-Ins, March 25th – 28th.  First-year and sophomore students who wish to discuss their majors can stop by during the below times:
Monday, March 25 – 4:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 26 – 3:00- 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 27 – 2:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 28 – 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.