While uncertainty can be a common trait among college students, the advising staff at Wayne State understands the struggle and offers help to undecided students or students seeking to change their major.
“I think many students who are undecided have feelings of anxiety, stress, discouragement and regret,” said Taylor Talbot, a graduate student enrolled in WSU’s occupational therapy program.
Entering WSU as a psychology major in 2010, Talbot said she constantly worried as her undergraduate years progressed because of the stress.
“Rounding into my senior year, I felt like I wasted my whole education,” Talbot said. “I worried about how I would repay my student loans without having a good job. I worried about having to continue living with my parents after college due to not having my own financial stability.”
Anita Carter, assistant director of WSU’s Advising Center, works with undecided students and those who contemplate switching majors. “Students often come to me stressed out because they have misconceptions
about majors,” Carter said. “It is not about the rest of your life. A major does not determine your whole career.”
Carter said she believes most students hold false ideals about what a major really entails.
“Our lives are like connect the dots,” she said. “We don’t know what the final picture is going to look like, but we can certainly go from dot to dot.”
Carter said the University Advising Center facilitates this process with many online resources. These include various worksheets and exercises designed to get students thinking about recording their interests, values, strengths and skills. They will then be matched to a list of suitable majors and career paths.
Carter said she understands assigning numerous activities may lead to information overload, so she uses a gradual process and personal follow-up meetings to better guide students.
“Information is not sufficient if it cannot be put together and properly analyzed,” Carter said. “I usually have students come back for additional meetings within two weeks of each step.”
Ali Pavlicek, an academic adviser and success coach in the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, said the feelings of stress and uncertainty can “slowly eat away” at students.
Pavlicek said she feels joy in “witnessing the stress and anxiety relief that manifests when students receive guidance and their path becomes clear.”
Each student is unique when it comes to providing proper guidance, but Pavlicek said there are a few common practices when helping exploratory students. She said a major isn’t quite as limiting as students may think and can offer a wide variety of potential career paths.
After receiving input about students’ interests, academic advisors can refer students to departments and organizations they have expressed interest in. Each department or organization can then provide accurate requirements for their respected fields.
Aside from referrals, Pavlicek said she holds personal discussions with undecided students where she can offer her advice and expertise. These include providing a detailed summary of the curriculum and course descriptions pertaining to the student’s potential field of study.
“When the process of referrals, analysis and discussion comes to its end, undecided students often gain an increased level of confidence and clarity when it comes to choosing a major,” said Pavlicek.
Talbot said by utilizing WSU’s advising resources, she could overcome her long struggle with uncertainty and become an assured student of occupational therapy.
“Simply talking one-on-one with an adviser helped me figure out what I wanted to do,” Talbot said. “My biggest piece of advice for anyone struggling with what they want to major in or do, is to talk with an adviser at WSU. Advisers are there to help, and this is a resource everyone at WSU should take advantage of. I wish I would have taken advantage of this sooner.”