Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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April 28, 2013

Students can struggle with picking majors, while some just know

GOSHEN — Goshen College business major Brianne Mault has pretty much always known what she wanted to study in college. For others, that decision didn’t come so easily. Now, with her college graduation right around the corner, Mault and about 240 of her fellow graduates in the class of 2013 are about to find out just what those decisions will mean for their futures in the months and years to come.

In preparation for Goshen College’s 115th Commencement, set to kick off today at 3 p.m., Mault looked back on her college career in an effort to examine what exactly goes into the process of deciding on a college major.

“I think I was kind of odd, actually, because probably by my sophomore year in high school I already knew what I wanted to do,” Mault said with a laugh. “I always knew since middle school I was really interested in the medical industry, so at first I kind of played with the idea of doing pre-med, maybe being a biology major.”

An avid soccer player in high school, Mault said she often found herself in her orthopedic surgeon’s office getting treated for one injury or another. It was that relationship that really got her started on the idea of pursuing a business major in college, rather than a full medical focus.

“Being in and out of my orthopedic surgeon’s office, we’d kind of talk back and forth about what I wanted to do with my life,” Mault said. “At one point he said, ‘Well, if you don’t want to go to school for an extensive amount of time, I think I have something that would be up your alley, and if you’re willing to try it, I’ll give you my contact and you can just run with it and see how you like it.”

That “something” turned out to be the name of a sales representative with Biomet, one of the world’s leading medical device manufacturers located in Warsaw. From that point on, Mault was hooked.

“So he introduced me to his sales rep,” Mault said, “and then from my sophomore year of high school on I just shadowed him whenever I had free time. ... That kind of really captured my interest and from there it was history.”

Mault was quick to note that she wasn’t without anxiety when trying to decide a major.

“It was kind of scary, especially from a commitment standpoint,” Mault said. “You’re kind of like, “What if I don’t like it down the line? And if I don’t, did I just waste four years on this? Will I have to start over?’ So I think that’s another thing that helped me decide on my major, because business is such a broad focus that you can really do anything. It gives you a lot of leeway and a lot of wiggle room.”

Some idea

According to Anita Yoder, director of career services for GC, while a majority of incoming students typically have at least some idea of what they want to study in college, there are always those who need a little bit of assistance.

“On occasion, that student does come in to talk to me about that,” Yoder said. “A lot come in already knowing what they want to study, but they also have a couple years to make any final decisions, and it’s not uncommon for a student to change their mind once or twice.”

For students who find themselves in such a situation, Yoder said the college has several resources available such as helpful websites, assessment tools and one-on-one conversations with people such as herself to help them make a final decision.

“One of the things that makes it difficult for students is that there are so many choices out there,” Yoder said. “Often times they can narrow it down to a major or two, but then after that, that’s when they have to figure out what they’re focus is going to be from there. And for some, that is not an easy choice.”

Yoder said her first goal when talking to students without a clear career goal is to determine their likes and interests.

“I try and see what their interests are, what really excites them, what areas they would love to spend more time in if they could,” Yoder said. “Then I encourage them to talk to people in those fields so they can get an idea of what that industry is like, what a day-in-the-life is like, because a lot of times what’s missing in the equation is that first-hand information.”

A big help

Mault also pointed to the college’s freshman year colloquium as a big help for students who haven’t yet decided on which direction they would like to go with their studies.

“Our colloquium, that’s in our freshman year, where everybody has one class that’s kind of like your home room or SRT in high school,” Mault said. “So that’s kind of the designated professor that you build a relationship with until you’re assigned an advisor and declare your major. They really tell you if you’re not sure yet, it’s your freshman year, it’s a lot of gen-ed classes, and you have time to decide. So they really encourage you to think hard about what you want to do so you don’t get halfway through something and then have to backtrack.”

As for her, Mault said she couldn’t be happier with the direction she decided to go with her college career and beyond.

“In the grand scheme of things, it couldn’t have worked out better,” Mault said. “I’m really, really happy that I did what I did.”

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