College students are letting the major they select define them, rather than assessing themselves and defining the major. This means wasted classroom time and takes costly chances for losing Financial Aid.
While it has been recognized nationally that students are not completing listed expectations in a timely manner, LaVerne University conducted a study to bust the myths and assumptions about the average college student.
Through these studies they have found multiple statistics to support the concerns of a majority of the faculty at Palomar College.
At least 50 percent of entering college students are undecided about their majors, according to the LaVerne study, as well as between 50 – 70 percent of students change their majors at least once and many will change majors at least three times before they graduate.
According to Brian Stockert, dean of Counseling Services, there are three main reasons for this problem amongst college students.
“To sum it up students have not established their identity,” Stockert said. “They haven’t met with a counselor and are also unaware of the new financial aid limits (FAFSA).”
While changing majors a couple of times is normal for every student, excessively changing majors will impair a student’s financial means and can result in being completely cut off from FAFSA due to the new regulations placed on the federal system.
Stockert said there are new federal regulations on federal aid.
“You have to complete the program within 150 percent of your units, if you’re doing a 60 unit major, you’ve got 90 units. That’s it. If you change your mind too many times, you get cut off of your financial aid,” He added.
However, this FAFSA limit is not much of an incentive to most students therefore the endless search for the perfect major continues, yet students are coming up empty-handed and out of time.
“I think a lot of what happens with the changing of majors is students often pursue a major because on the surface it looks good, in other words it pays a lot of money,” Stockert said.
The majors that require a smaller amount of course work are more appealing than ones with heavier loads, however the choice to pursue these majors regardless of whether or not they align with values or the character of the student, is derived from a lack of identity within each individual.
“Students don’t spend a lot of time assessing who they are,” Career Services Director Rosie Antonnechia said. “We have a career search class that examines your skills and values. We have a whole lot out there and why students don’t access it is beyond my comprehension.”
It is more important for students to value quality relationships with their professors and counselors through what Stockert calls “informational interviewing,” a tactic defined as talking to a person in the profession you are interested in and finding out if the criteria matches up with your skills and interests.
While statistically the two leading majors currently are in the medical field or in the business/accounting realm, according to Stockert, the majors are being chosen as a result of wrong motivates, and lack of direction.
“They don’t match their interests with their aptitudes,” Stockert said. “For example, let’s say I want to be – I don’t know – a rocket scientist, a physicist. Well what do you need to be a physicist? You need math skills, you need analytical ability, but what if that’s not a natural strength for me?”
While many students are unaware of their aptidues, international student psychology major Maria Teresa Linares is an exception.
“I’m from Panama, my parent’s pay for my education so I don’t have the advantage of working and finding out what I like,” she said.
Linares’ major has changed approximately six times varying from sports medicine to kinesiology and has now come to psychology where she has based her study for the past two years.
“I’m a runner, and I love the body so I want to work with it,” Linares said.
Not everyone thinks changing majors is a bad thing.
“I wouldn’t say changing your major impairs your journey,” Transfer Center Staff Assistant Brittany Wong said. “As long as you are continuing to talk with your counselor, when you try and figure it out on your own that’s where you run into problems.”
While each student’s circumstances vary, most students are choosing not touch base with their counselors and professors. This leaves students with too many options to choose from, with unproductive results.
Zoology major Casey Colvi has not changed his major once. He said that the passion keeps him going after continuing to pursue the major in hopes of working with wildlife.
“When you’ve been wanting to do something and its what you’ve always wanted to know, it’s no problem,” he said.
Counseling service workers at Palomar say the best way to take advantage of this is to learn your skills and interests, build relationships with people who care about what you care about and be smart about your financial means during this growing process.
“It’s your job to dream, and to know who you are,” Stockert said. “It’s our job to make sure those doors are open for you and that you have a chance.”