Though many freshmen will have chosen their major during orientation this summer, the most important piece of advice, regarding your first few semesters at the University of Connecticut, is to resist the temptation to become too set on one major or field. At some point during sophomore year, you will have to notify the school of your chosen major and field of study. However, up until that point, and certainly during your first semester, it is wise to keep an open mind.
During the usual icebreakers at the beginning of your first semester of college, students will encounter peers who have lofty, almost comical goals and career paths in mind. These are the students who have already assigned themselves a spot at a dream medical school, and speak of their future with alarming certainty. A first encounter with one of these students might make one feel rudderless, having failed to grasp some precocious understanding of the future in their high school years.
In reality, these students are the overconfident-types, those who will, in most cases, attempt to explain away their abandoning of those cemented, first semester goals. The student committed to medical school will soon become a finance major, having finally taken the time to look at medical school admissions rates.
It is important to enter freshman year with dreams and aspirations; however, it is a fool who enters with certainty like train tracks, feeling bound to a life and career path from day one. Pursuing a predetermined track may work out; but, if you do not work in a few extra courses from a range of subjects, you might never discover a hidden passion or talent.
The most important lesson for an incoming college student, especially at a university as large as UConn, is to not become pigeonholed too early in the process. College is most certainly a process, and one in which students whittle away at their hobbies, passions and interests, until they discover something resembling direction, leaving college more focused than during fall of freshman year.
Some majors are more akin to job training, especially those in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) and the School of Business. Others, chiefly the liberal arts, are designed to develop your capability to observe, think, reflect and analyze all manner of situations and materials you might encounter.
Though your peers will feign expertise on these subjects, the truth is, most are doe-eyed and lost as well. As a liberal arts major, there is no better resource in Storrs than your own professors. Some may come off as prickly, uninterested and aloof. Some may be warm, welcoming and gregarious. Regardless, all professors began their academic and professional career as confused freshman, eventually boiling down their study, and sharpening their focus, until landing on a niche subject, turned passion.
Going to office hours may be daunting, entering the book-filled office of a professor who may or may not recognize you, to speak of nothing in particular. Remember this: professors hold office hours each week, and many, especially during the first few weeks of the semester, are lucky to get one student passing through. Showing interest in the subject, asking questions about how a professor arrived at his or her chosen field, these questions will help build a rapport with professors.
Professors are wellsprings of information and advice, who—for the most part—possess a strong and distinct desire to see students succeed. Throughout the standard four years of undergraduate education, there can be no shortage of advice sought or given. Whether working through the difficult process of choosing a major, or beginning to think about a career, seek the advice of those who have been in your position.
If the goal is to leave college with direction, entering with a stubborn sense of direction is pointless. Preconceived notions and a baseless sense of expertise are toxic to the university education. Though society, culture and politicians have ramped up the denigration of the liberal arts, and more broadly, entering college without a direction locked-down, without these things the modern university will transform into pure job training, with little flexibility, or consideration of natural inclinations. As you enter you first class, and every class thereafter, keep your mind open.