Helping Students Choose a Major

 

to Pre-Major Advisor Page

Myths

  • There is a specific academic major for every career path.
  • Liberal Arts degrees are not marketable.
  • Everyone knows what they want to do after college except me.
  • I won’t be successful or financially secure unless I concentrate on something pre-professional.
  • There is a Penn pre-med major.
  • There are certain majors that are better for law school than others.
  • My major determines my future.

Strategies for Students

  • Get students to use the general curriculum to explore areas of interest.
  • Suggest that students visit the departments online and in person especially for sponsored events to learn more about different fields of study.
  • Students should talk to people in career fields that interest them.
  • Students should talk to upper classmen about their majors and what factors lead to their decision to declare a particular major.
  • Direct students to other available resources for major and career paths research (see below).
  • If a student has a particular major in mind, he or she should be aware of any pre-requisites that may be required e.g. economics (MATH104 & 114); communications (COMM125 or 130)
  • If a student is considering a pre-med course, study abroad, double major or dual degree—let him or her know that early planning is important. The College Office can help with these topics.
  • If a student is interested in a number of fields, he or she should consider interdisciplinary majors, double majors and minors.

Strategies for Advisors

  • Listen to what the student is saying and not saying.
  • Ask questions about the student’s interests, abilities, values and motivations, e.g.:
    • What courses do you do well in?
    • What courses do you struggle with?
    • Do you work well with people? Individually? In groups?
    • Are you comfortable with public speaking?
    • Do you like to read?
    • Can you express your thoughts clearly in writing?
    • Are you comfortable working with numbers?
    • Are you outgoing or more introspective?

Resources

  • Departments and Programs See a complete list of and links to departments,
  • MAP: The Major Advising Program is a peer advising system that helps students with their search for a major. Any College student can access the online database of peer advisors, representing nearly every major within the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Majors and More Dinners Each semester, the College in collaboration with the College Houses and academic departments and programs holds a series of dinner discussions on majors, minors and academic programs. These dinners provide an opportunity to meet with faculty and upperclassmen in a small, relaxed setting.
  • CAMS: The College Alumni Mentoring Series engages College students and alumni in mentoring relationships to help students determine how their current academic paths coincide with career aspirations.
  • Course and Majors Fair Each fall, during the week prior to Advance Registration, representatives from academic departments and programs are available at the Course and Majors Fair in Houston Hall to present information about interesting classes in their field, answer questions about their major, and discuss a variety of academic options.
  • Career Services helps Penn undergraduates define their career goals and take the steps necessary to achieve them by providing resources and services on career direction/assessment, employment and admission to graduate and professional schools through individual advising, career seminars, placement workshops, online job listings and alumni networks.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services partners with Career Services to run career workshop and assessment sessions.