A recent article on ABCnews.com has sparked many debates in the academic world. Colleges across the United States are becoming increasingly concerned with the amount of time it takes students to work toward a degree. Too often sophomores find themselves at the end of their spring semester wondering what to major in or worse, deciding to change majors in the middle of a program, which carries the consequence of an extra year or more spent in school.
With college tuition rising, especially at private universities like St. John’s, many students want to do what is needed in order to graduate in four years or less. Still, too much pressure is being placed on students to decide what field they would like to go into for the rest of their life.
To prevent disinterest and frustration, which can result in dropouts, universities are spending more money on advisors and programs to aid undeclared students and push them to find the right major sooner rather than later. Take the Freshman Center at St. John’s, for example. Designed to be a guide for first-year students, freshmen are assigned an adviser to help guide them toward a career path.
However, the students themselves are not the only problem. Universities need to do more than enforce deadlines to declare majors. St. John’s is certainly going in the right direction with the University Freshman Center. Freshmen should be exposed early to the different career possibilities and then be asked to decide later on. Perhaps schools can encourage more student interaction by giving freshmen the option to shadow certain classes in a major that the student may be interested in and to talk to students within that major to find out if it is really for them.
The infamous core that most schools are known for could also be modified to offer a wider variety of classes for students to take. With a few exceptions, St. John’s has a well-distributed core. Other schools either have too heavy a focus on one area such as Fordham University, which has a five-semester foreign language requirement, or do not offer enough of a variety within the core to give students the opportunity to see what is out there for them. As much as students may love to complain about it, core courses have helped most realize what paths are not for them.
Pressuring students to pick a life path early on is the wrong way to go. No one should be pressured into a career or expected to “grow up” in their first few semesters. After all, good things come to those who wait.