Last week I read a blog post by Rookie Notes giving tips for choosing a college major. She did a great job. She’s 23 years old. I’ve worked in higher education for 35-years and have counseled countless students about their majors. I was really impressed with her insights. She inspired me to tell my major selection story.
I stayed home for my freshman and sophomore years, worked a part-time job, and took a full load of general education courses each semester. Tuition, fees, books, and supplies cost less than $200 per term. No, it wasn’t in 1932, but it might seem like it. The tuition in the Texas junior college system at the time was $4.00 per credit hour. I probably got one of the best educational deals in the country!
My mother and father, not helicopter parents, drove me 750 miles for a college visit. They dropped me off at the admissions office with a host named Rick and told me they’d pick me at the end of the day. They headed to Little Rock to spend several hours. After a good full day, a trip home, and a few weeks of soul-searching, I decided to attend that college for junior year.
I had to declare a major when I showed up for orientation in August. I carried the course catalog around almost all summer. The pages were becoming dog-eared. I had taken one of those interest inventories my freshman year. In high school l’d been very involved in speech and drama. I’d already narrowed the field to something in communications. I was leaning toward speech therapy. What tipped the scales for me was that I would have to take too much science. I had already taken two biology lecture-lab series and really didn’t like it. I knew I didn’t want to take anatomy and physiology.
I finally decided on a 66-credit hour wide-area major. Most majors were about 36 credits but required 18-credit hour minors. My selected major was in the School of Journalism. It was Public Relations (today often called Image Management) which required equal parts journalism, marketing, business, advertising, psychology, sociology, and political science. I loved it.
It actually turned out to be a major that developed a number of skills important to any workplace: business writing, presentations, human relations, labor relations, creative development, marketing, etc. I couldn’t have asked for better career preparation.
When I was preparing to graduate I happened to mention to that original college host named Rick that I would love to do public relations for a college. He told me that he was leaving the college and asked me why didn’t I apply for his job? I did, and I got it!
After working in higher education for six years I knew it was the right field for me. I then committed another five years to getting a master’s and Ph.D. because it was going to be necessary for advancement.
I would prefer that students follow Rookie Notes advice on choosing a college major. But my method worked for me!
2 thoughts on “Much ado about Major”
I went to engineering school to be a computer programmer. It was what I had wanted to do since I wrote my first line of code at age 14. But as much as I enjoyed programming, I didn’t enjoy the computer science major I chose. Too much electrical engineering. Holy cow, do I not care what happens to electrons in circuit. So I switched my major to mathematics. I had to take a pile of the stuff anyway to get the CS degree, and I rather liked it. The math degree required a heavy concentration in one engineering discipline. So I chose all CS classes for that. I essentially chose for myself a major that wouldn’t exist for another 10 years there: software engineering.
I love it. You were visionary. I’m sure there are some frustrated visionaries out there now because we old college administrators can’t keep up with the times!