What I Wish I’d Known Before College: Major and Career Exploration

The Childhood Dream Job

Don't be afraid to do some career and major exploration!

Flickr user DoDEA

Since the age of ten, I had always wanted to be an elementary school teacher. I loved being around children and the idea of working in a creative environment. Throughout middle and high school, I would daydream about how I would decorate. How I would set up my own classroom and which assignments and crafts to do with my students. When my senior year of high school rolled around, I began thinking about where I would attend college to pursue my dream of being a teacher. I knew that I wanted to go to one of the three big universities in the state of Iowa. The University of Northern Iowa had an excellent elementary education program. So, I decided to go on a visit.

College Visit Curve Ball

When I arrived at UNI for my college visit day, I was so excited to see what their school had to offer. I took a tour of the campus, ate lunch in the dining hall, and went to a seminar specific to the College of Education. As I sat in through the seminar, I remember thinking “This career sounds a lot different than what I had expected. What if I don’t actually want to be a teacher?” It was a curveball that I hadn’t been expecting and I suddenly felt lost and confused.

As I sat in the car on the way home, I took out a sheet of paper that I had received in my college packet. It was a list of all the majors and minors offered at UNI. When I looked at the topics listed, I realized that I didn’t know what half of the majors were. Or even what kind of careers they corresponded with. I started asking my parents what they thought about different areas of study. They were completely supportive in helping me in my exploration for what else was out there.

Now What?

Over the course of the next few months, I researched different majors and what each of them entailed. I knew I wasn’t interested in (or good at) math and science, so I focused my efforts on the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences at various schools. As I conducted my research, I realized that there were jobs and careers that I had never even thought about or heard of. I am from a small town in Iowa of about 6,000 people, so my exposure to careers had been fairly limited.

I think that one reason I wanted to be a teacher was that it was an obvious job that I was aware existed. The only outside career exposure conducted by our high school consisted of one or two job fairs, featuring other obvious careers and trade jobs such as firefighters, florists, and welders. There were no marketing or business booths at these fairs, so how I was to know?

After some soul searching and conversations with my parents, I finally made the decision to attend the University of Iowa to major in Journalism and Mass Communications. My father helped me arrive at the decision by pointing out my strength for writing and my interest in current events. So, within a matter of four months, I had gone from attending UNI for education to attending the University of Iowa to become a journalist.

The Long-Term Effect of Major Exploration

Currently, I am a senior at the University of Iowa and have changed my major three times since my original decision to become a journalist. I am now graduating with a degree in Communication Studies and a certificate in Entrepreneurial Management. These changes resulted from my experience with different internships, the classes I was taking and further career exploration with the assistance of University resources.

Had I known what majors and careers were available when I was still in High School, I may have had a more direct and straightforward college experience. I also would’ve had more time to discover my passions and interests prior to beginning my undergrad and declaring a major. To help you avoid this same issue, I encourage you to visit our Majors page to begin your own exploration and discover the path for your collegiate journey.

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