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posted: 5/1/2013 3:09 PM

Sobek: To succeed in college, commit to a major

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For most people, college is the time to answer the age-old question, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Students are often exposed to new ideas and academic disciplines as they navigate their college curriculum.

However, research has shown that students who declare a major field of study early have higher rates of degree completion. The main reasons are two things -- time and money.

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Most college counselors advise students to spend their first year of college completing their general education requirements while also taking elective courses to try new fields. By the end of their first year, students should be determining a major so they can begin their sophomore year completing the classes required for their degrees. Coming to a decision on a major can be made easier with the help of college counselors who offer not only years of experience but also a variety of career and personality assessments. Internships are another excellent way for students to confirm future career paths and degree plans.

Many students may come to college with a major already declared, but plans can change. Students who change their minds early enough still have a good chance to graduate on time. Changing majors multiple times or waiting too long to declare a major does have a negative impact on degree completion, significantly increasing the money spent on and time spent in college.

Having to start over on degree requirements or find the funding for additional years of study is enough to derail many a college career. However, all is not lost; counselors can help you research your options and get back on track.

At Waubonsee Community College, we recently hosted an Exploring Majors Fair to help students learn more about each academic discipline and the associated career opportunities for these fields. This event stemmed from the college's Project Graduation, which is producing significant gains in the number of students earning degrees and certificates each year.

Faculty and staff from a variety of academic programs at the college share their backgrounds and passions to help guide students to majors that offer a good fit and promising job prospects.

In addition, students can take the one-credit class Personal Development 131 -- Strategies for Career Exploration for a more in-depth way to uncover the best majors and careers for their interests and skill sets.

Choosing a major earlier allows students to fully understand their path to graduation and access the necessary classes and services to make completion a reality. Having more students actively engaged earlier in their academic careers enables counselors and other student support personnel to assist students on their paths to completion.

Just attending college is no longer sufficient. Students need to complete degrees and certificates to see the full value of their investment. Waubonsee is committed to helping students achieve complete success.

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