Congratulations freshmen, and welcome to Rhode Island College. Y’all must be relieved that the SATs and high school are all behind you and now you’re entering into the gates of adulthood. At the risk of bursting your bubble, I’d like to nicely point out that the battle isn’t over yet. In fact, you might say that you’re entering a new battlefield. To make this major transition less scary, here are some most basic things to consider. Your major. I’m sure that just about everyone you’ve talked to in the past few weeks has asked you what you’re going to major in, and many of you probably feel obligated to know it and everything it entails. I want to take a step back and discuss exactly what a major is, as this is not as straightforward as you might think.
To quote the Princeton Review, a major is “a collection of classes revolving around a subject (like mathematics), a theme (like peace studies), or a professional field (like business or engineering).” The purpose of the major is to widen your understanding about your prospective field, and provide you with a set of skills for your line of work. Even though you might graduate with a degree in psychology, you might go into a completely different profession such as fashion marketing. In other words, you are not stuck with one career path just because you have a specific major.
What if you are interested in more than one field of study? One solution is to double major. This would entail taking a double amount of classes, although the exact amount of classes varies in every department. Usually they require at least 10 classes per major. They can go hand and hand, such as political science and justice studies, or they can be completely different disciplines, such as jewelry design and biology. Folks who double major are more likely to stay longer than four years, which is perfectly ok; you’ll be in good company, as many students take longer than four years to complete college. If a double major seems overwhelming, another alternative is to have a minor. In a minor, your classes focus on a specific academic topic, but there are fewer classes involved than for a major. I am a film studies major. In my second year, I declared a history minor which requires five classes, because I’ve always had an interest in history and it easily fit into my four-year plan.
If you have positively no clue about what you want to do or what interests you, you can declare yourself undecided, which means that you have no set major. Note that in order to graduate, you must have at least one major, but you can remain undecided until your sophomore or junior year. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being undecided; there’s a large amount of students who fall into this group, and you will still meet with an advisor who might be able to find what sparks your interest.
General Education courses are potentially useful for undecided people, since they offer a wide array of classes in just about every discipline that RIC offers. They are just as valuable to those who have declared majors, because really interesting classes or professors in an unrelated subject have been known to influence people to switch majors, double major or take it on as a minor. Whether you are undecided or have declared a major, you have to take a certain amount of Gen Eds. The specifics can be found at ric.edu/generalEducation/Fall2012Present.php. Good luck to all of you.