Majority of undergraduates struggle to select career path
With more than 100 undergraduate degree programs at USC, choosing a major can be a fickle process. For Samruddhi Somani, a first-year economics and political science student who began the semester majoring in mechanical engineering, this seems a large responsibility for incoming college students whose minds may be subject to change at any moment.
"I was good at math and science in high school, and designing things sounded interesting," Somani said. "I switched when I realized that engineering didn't interest me as much as I thought I did, and I was happier discussing economics and political science more than I ever was thinking about engineering. I don't think [a major] should be chosen freshman year. You've already chosen the school, but I don't think a major is quite so certain."
This kind of uncertainty is common in the majority of college students. According to the ACT, 65 to 85 percent of students will change their majors at least once. Career Center counselor Alicia Bervine, who works specifically with students from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Nursing, said these statistics are well-represented each year, and that changing majors is no new phenomenon.
"A lot of students base their major off their interests in high school, but when they get here, they begin to ask themselves different questions: What they can do with that interest, what they ultimately want to do and what's the best route to get there," Bervine said. "Sometimes they'll find that their ultimate end goals change, but that's what college is about — exploration and finding something you're passionate about."
Each major and each student is unique, as are their reasons for choosing and switching majors, Somani said. As someone who describes herself as a "jack of all trades," Somani said that she was attracted to the freedom to explore other subject areas that her new major gave her in comparison to the structured and preprofessional engineering major.
Other students, such as third-year hospitality student Ryan Donahue, change majors after struggling with required classes they don't like. Donahue switched out of the Moore School of Business after the second semester of his sophomore year, which, according to Bervine, is the most common time students change majors because it correlates with increasingly specific and difficult upper-level classes.
"Business was a mistake," Donahue said. "But it was what my dad did, and he told me business was the way to go. Business classes in high school had been really easy for me, so I thought it was what I wanted to do until I realized that business in college is way harder."
When changing his major, Donahue sought assistance from cross-campus advisement at the Student Success Center in the Thomas Cooper Library. Students considering changing their major are encouraged to start looking for help there or at the Career Center in the Business Administration building. Donahue recommends that all students, even those who think they are set in their majors, to explore all their options early on.
"When I first came to this school, I didn't even know this school had a hospitality major or a sport and entertainment management major," Donahue said. "If I had known that, I probably would have changed before I even started coming here. I wanted to switch to sport and entertainment management, but my GPA was too low because I hated my business classes and I didn't try very hard. Do your research, and don't rule anything out or shut yourself off from anything. Try to figure out what it is you want to do and see if they have a major for it, because they probably do."
Several factors may influence how a student decides on a major, but according to Somani, the most obvious and important to consider is one's general likes and dislikes rather than the earning-potential of a career.
"I figure I'd rather spend four years doing something I love than doing something that has a guaranteed job," Somani said.