Upon graduating from high school, one of the toughest decisions a student faces is choosing a major in university.
Although a major is not required in first year, it is definitely beneficial to get a general sense of one’s future academic and career goals. What most advisers suggest is that students choose an academic stream they are passionate about. However, students often face a sense of confusion when trying to determine their passion. While the school system certainly allows students to sample a variety of academic fields, it may be overwhelming when course selection time rolls around and there is pressure and urgency to select a major.
The steps listed below should put you on the path to discovering your passion. Although the suggestions may initially seem simple, first year students transitioning into the university experience often overlook these aspects. Channeling strengths early on will allow you to explore different facets of your field.
• With less a month left until the end of summer, visit the library and select non-fiction books that you find interesting to read in your spare time. Chances are, if you like reading about quantum physics, you will enjoy courses and a major that focuses on this subject. After discovering what you like to read about in your own time, envision the next four years of university and consider other aspects of your major, such as the labs and projects. Though the first year of university can be busy, make time for reading books outside of class materials, so that by the end of the year, you are able to gauge your strengths and interests.
• If you haven’t done so already, try to volunteer in a facility related to your potential field of interest. Summer is an excellent time to volunteer. If you are interested in the health care field, the hospital may be an excellent place to start. If you have already selected your courses for the upcoming semester, try to schedule a weekly volunteer activity starting in September. Also, search for any university clubs or councils you might want to consider joining. Volunteer opportunities will allow you to apply your passion and determine if you can see yourself working in that field in the future. However, do not overwhelm yourself with excessive activities. Commitment is the key.
• Advisors in university are there to help you. Students should regularly book an appointment with advisors, both before this upcoming semester begins, and throughout first year. In addition to academic advisors, students will also benefit from talking to professors and researchers in their potential fields of study. These individuals can serve as mentors and introduce students to other opportunities.
• Aside from the academic angle of a major, students should consider other opportunities that a potential major offers. Co-ops, internships, and research positions all form the framework of an academic field. Students should attend information sessions where they can speak to senior students and learn more about the vast opportunities available to them outside of the classroom.
• The most important way students can discover their passion is by taking the greatest variety of courses in their first year. A class schedule, balanced between elective and potential-major courses, will allow you to fulfill elective requirements, while leaving time to volunteer and discover your interests.
Academic streams often incorporate specific courses that you might not find particularly appealing. Your goal, however, is to select a major that incorporates the majority of your strengths. Furthermore, students should keep in mind that universities offer double-major and minor programs which allow a student to incorporate different interests. If one is considering of going to medical school or law school after an undergraduate degree, many of these graduate schools, contrary to popular belief, allow for flexibility in terms of the undergraduate major selected.
As Henri-Frederic Amiel states: “Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.”
Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey. He writes regularly for The Leader.