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Mistakes & Myths

Conyngham Center • 570-408-4150 (T) • 570-408-4907 (F) • Email

It is common to make mistakes when choosing a major.

These tips should help you avoid some.

Narrow options to make a decision.
While narrowing your options is an absolute necessity, there are some things you need to do first. If you are still in high school, or newly graduated, you should expand your options to ensure a good decision. Otherwise, you use a process of decision-making called, "satisficing." This term, coined by psychologist Herbert Simon, refers to the process we use when we stop developing options once we discover one that meets our MINIMUM criteria. Can you predict the result of such a decision-making process when applied to major decisions we make over many years? We become minimally satisfied with where we are.

Instead, use a process called "maximizing." Before narrowing your options to make a decision, be sure you generate a growing list of careers that meet your minimum criteria. Use interest inventories available on the Web, or plain old paper and pencil, with the help of a career counselor. At Wilkes, we offer a career course and advisors to help you with this process.

Listen to everything you are told.
As a child, you may have been led to believe most things adults told you. That was probably for your own protection, but now, the advice is no longer current. For every negative story you hear from someone in a particular career, you will find another that is very positive. In other words, for every person who tells you, "Don't become a teacher because I hate it," you will find another who will tell you how much he or she loves working with children. It is all relative. Should you ignore the advice of others? No. These vignettes can be useful, but you must be aware that the experiences of one person should not be the final factor about a decision that is so important.

Develop only skills you enjoy.
Somewhere in time, many young people lost the enjoyment of trying new skills. So when it comes time to decide on potential careers, they have poor knowledge of their skills. Some skills take time to develop, but so many people try for a short time and then, if they do not reach perfection, they give up. The stories of many high achievers in all fields is crowded with examples of people who failed one, two, three, or even four times.

You don't have to be perfect. Give yourself a break. Try new things and fail. If you enjoy them, keep trying. How else will you discover your potential skills?

Concentrate primarily on classes that relate to your potential major because they are more important.
Among the most common mistakes. In the field of career decision-making, there are so many examples of people who reap the rewards of a strong general education that some call it a rule. The common courses that Wilkes and other universities develop for their students are often the foundations for an opportunity that students never considered.

Your major subjects give you the background and credentials necessary for entry into many professions, but it is your "liberal" education that will get you the promotions and make you a major contributor in those professions. Ask any high achiever.

Many myths masquerade as truths during the career decision-making process...
Most college students have made their career decisions.
Many undeclared students believe they are the only lonely, indecisive people who just can't make up their minds. From Wilkes' perspective, the undeclared major represents one of the fastest-growing academic programs in higher education.

Undeclared majors are among the top three, and more often first, of the academic programs selected at the Wilkes University orientation. When we add the number of students who change majors during their first year in college, the numbers of students who express uncertainty about choosing a major greatly increases.

Making a career decision is simple: Choose the career that consists of the activities you most enjoy.
We continually develop new interests, especially as a result of going to college. Although most of us received the street advice to simply choose a career that would be "enjoyable," few jobs are actually "fun."

A more helpful description of the activities associated with careers is "rewarding." Most people who would choose their same careers again would do so because they receive a high level of satisfaction from the challenges and demands they face.

One career is "right" for me; I just have to find it.
There is no evidence of this. Many careers will meet your minimum criteria. Thousands of careers are recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, which means there are many you have not considered yet.

If you keep going to school, your career decision will become evident.
While continuing your education is a good decision, it alone will not make the decision clear. You have to devote time to develop a plan for such a critical decision. Here at Wilkes, we teach undeclared students how to develop a plan and we make the time for careful decision-making.

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