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- ADVISING FAQ
Students who have not yet chosen a major or are in transition between majors are “Undergraduate Studies” students, abbreviated as “UGST.”
UMBC has no formal rule about when a student must declare a major. The most common “rule of thumb” is that choosing a major by the end of the sophomore year (completion of 60 credits) is wise. However, choosing a “high credit” major such as engineering or visual arts after the freshman year could extend your time to graduation.
Some students believe that sitting quietly in their rooms meditating is an effective way to choose a major. Although introspection is part of the process, most students know to gather a heap of information prior to meditating.
There are many ways to explore potential majors. Some of the most popular and practical ways are:
WORK THE LIST: UMBC offers a wide range (43 to be exact) of academic majors. By printing out the list and then eliminating those that are obviously unsuitable, you then have a shorter list, perhaps 20 majors. Gather general information about those 20 majors and narrow the list further, perhaps to 10 majors. Focus on those 10 until you can narrow it to three. This may sound simplistic, but it is amazingly effective at moving your thought process forward to a conclusion.
And while you are deciding, if your parents (or others) ask you about your major, tell them you have been steadily narrowing down the options based on thorough analysis and research. Doesn't that sound better than “I have no idea?”
Here is a wonderful link to a list of majors. By clicking on the name of the major (e.g., Psychology B.A.) you will be able to see the details about the major.
TAKE COURSES: You can use your general education courses and electives to try on new fields for size in a very low-commitment manner. Or, you can use the “plunge in” technique and just take a full semester of Theatre classes. You may fit right in or you may decide to downgrade the field to a minor.
There is no substitute for taking courses in a major to find out whether it is something you find interesting, meaningful, or manageable.
And if you want to dip a toe in the water before signing up for the course(s), find the required textbooks and leaf through them. That may increase or decrease your enthusiasm for the courses.
TAKE AN INVENTORY: Several campus units offer personalized assessments of major and career interests, aptitudes, and personality styles. Although the results sometimes leave you scratching you head, wondering whether you recognize yourself in the conclusions, in general you can learn something every time. Here are the inventories available at UMBC:
MINE THE WEB: Professional associations have rich websites with information about fields such as Psychology, Social Work, Mechanical Engineering, and Graphic Design. These sites discuss graduate programs, subfields within the field, training and credentials needed for various roles within the field (e.g., industrial psychology, school-based counseling, etc.), and have links to firms and organizations that employ graduates in the field.
Studying job vacancy announcements can also yield information about career progression, skills and traits needed for success, and the availability of employment in given fields.
Government and foundation websites, such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook produced by the U.S. Department of Labor, provide a meta-view of fields where opportunities are plentiful or less plentiful. This is also an excellent source of links to professional associations and training programs, conferences, and other resources.
What our office has to offer you, the Undergraduate Studies student:
Our office offers comprehensive academic advising for students who are exploring majors, in between majors, or choosing between more than one major.
Students may make an appointment to take a computerized major exploration assessment called the Self Directed Search (SDS). The SDS is based on your interests, abilities and values as it relates to major and career field. A one hour appointment can be scheduled that consists of completing the assessment and interpretation and discussion of results with an academic advisor.
Sometimes it is helpful to talk with current students who have gone through the process of choosing or changing a major. The Office for Academic & Pre-Professional Advising also has Peer Advisors on hand to answer basic questions related to majors and academics at UMBC.
The Peer Advisors also hold workshops throughout the semester on a variety of academic topics such as “GEP Jeopardy”, “Time Management” and “What's Your Learning Style?” Please check under "Resources" in the Student section for our most updated Calendar of Workshops for our office.
We offer a variety of printed resources for exploratory students, including: