A Guide for Traditional Students and Adult Learners
Attaining higher education can be very exciting yet stressful. On one hand, you have so many new, fun, and exhilarating experiences awaiting. On the other hand, you have to make several, potentially life-changing, decisions.
For a college freshman, decisions might sound like: Do I room with my best friend or venture out and get to know more people? Do I stay in tonight or check out the campus event in the quad? For adult learners: Do I stay after class and connect with my classmates, or do I head home to prepare dinner? How do I arrange my schedule in a way that does not interfere with my work schedule?
And let’s not forget one of the most looming questions all university students have to face: What will I major in?
I will tell you right now, I was not one of those students who picked a major for their college application and stuck through with it come graduation. I actually do not know many who did. It’s hard to foreshadow exactly what you will be doing or feel connected to the next four-plus years. As an adult leaner, you may feel the pressure to “get it right” as this decision to go back to school is often a second chance to obtain higher education or pivot to another career path.
Despite your journey to this point, the destination remains the same. The best strategy is to take it easy. I felt I had to figure it all out from square one before I could even take one step. I thought planning everything out would give me more peace, and it didn’t. I became more frustrated, overwhelmed, and stressed out. I changed my major three times before landing on what I absolutely loved, and that’s okay.
Maybe you are one of those people who always knew the life you wanted to live. That’s great! And if you are not, that’s great too! You have time! As a traditional student, you will have several required classes between Freshman and Sophomore year but pick a variety of electives too. This way, you can try a multitude of different fields out and see what piques your interest. Follow that. As an adult learner, it may feel like this is your second shot or a career change. The pressure alone can be crippling, but there’s hope no matter what stage of life you are in.
Let’s do an exercise. Take out a sheet of paper and something to write with. Label three columns Loved, Hated, and Tolerated; fill in the corresponding subjects from either high school or your first experience in college. Label a fourth column Explore– What topic do you wish you learned more about but didn’t? What skill do you wish you had the opportunity to further explore? Is it Art? Feminist History? Politics? Marine Biology? This diagram will be your starting place.
For me, my Explore column was Psychology. When I got to college, one of my first electives was General Psychology. Come Junior year, I’d declared my major in Psychology, though the classes began to no longer resonate with me. I felt it was already late in the game and decided to just tough it out. As a Psych major, I was required to take electives outside the field. I choose two Sociology courses. Suddenly, I felt the spark.
Sociology made sense to me, and my brain just processed everything quicker and with more ease. I no longer felt I was going against my gradient, so I switched my major for the final time. While the coursework was not any less rigorous, I looked forward to learning and truly enjoyed it.
I believe anyone can find their spark too; you just have to relax, be open, and explore your options until then.
I tell anyone within earshot, college is expensive; you might as well pay for what you’d enjoy learning! If you get stuck, you can always give me a call for career counseling at 470-854-2944!