The Second Step: Choosing a major

Students interacted with professors and other students in the various departments and majors that UConn offers. (Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

This article is the second part of a series focusing on students in the job market. In the previous article, you learned the relationship between students looking for employment and employers looking for interns. This article will explore why students choose their majors and what they hope to do with them in the future.

Picking a college is hard enough. Deciding what to study in college is another problem.

The University of Connecticut offers hundreds of majors. And, if the major you want is not offered at the university, you can do an individualized major.

UConn is one of 900 universities and colleges that offer individualized majors for people who want to combine all their interests into one major, according to a 2010 Wall Street Journal article.

But what influences students to pursue their majors? Is it financial security? Personal interest? Both?

Well, at the UConn major fair in early October, students and faculty explained their reason for choosing their majors.

Albert Tulli, a fifth-semester chemical engineering major, said he advertises his major to students who are undecided as a The Major Experience mentor.

He said he chose his major because of his interest in math and science and his skill with chemistry.

Tulli said with his major, he can go into a variety of different fields.

“I am looking into pursuing pharmaceuticals after earning my degree if medical school is not an option,” Tulli said.

Zachary Morin, seventh-semester physics major with a concentration in material sciences, said his interest in metals, aerospace engineering and his blue-collar background inspired him to pursue his major.

“I love solving things and figuring things out,” Morin said.

He said he initially considered journalism, psychology and mechanical engineering and his thought was: “Where can I make the most money? He said when he worked at an aerospace company when he was 18, it made him decide to fully pursue material sciences.

“I wanna come back and get my masters,” Morin said.

Matthew Parent, a graduate student in political science, said he has always been a political science major and gave an interesting reason as to why he chose it.

“I’m interested in international security and it’s a great way to learn (about) it,” Parent said.

There are students that are still figuring out what they would like to major in.

Samantha Pittsley, a fifth-semester student, said she’s still deciding what she wants to major in after previously being an allied health major.

At the fair, she said she is leaning towards communications and digital arts due to her interests in web designing and advertising.

She said she initially majored in allied health, because she had been interested in physical therapy since high school. She said the average pay in the field was also a factor.

“I like to help people and PT is a hands-on career with helping people,” Pittsley said.

In Fall 2016, UConn had 19,030 students enrolled at its Storrs campus, according to its Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness.

The three schools within the university with the largest undergraduate enrollment in Fall 2016 were the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and School of Business.

The faculty that lead the departments within these schools have something to say about their successes.

Michael Braunstein, the assistant director of actuarial science, said the department and major attracts a certain type of student.

“They’re good in math,” Braunstein said. “They wanna make good money.”

Actuarial science is a major offered in the Department of Mathematics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Braunstein said it’s a hard major, with only 500 students currently in the program.

“(UConn is) one of the premiere centers for actuarial science in the world,” Braunstein said.

Professor Christopher Clark, the Head of the History Department, said that history is a “global discipline.”

He said history is becoming a popular double major at UConn—especially with STEM students.

“They want to have a set of perspectives on how to use that knowledge,” Clark said on how history can help STEM students apply a more human aspect to their technical skills.

He said it’s important for individuals to be able to understand people’s perspectives.

“History students learn critical ability,” Clark said.

To answer the questions earlier in the article, students are choosing their majors based on factors of both financial security and personal interests.


Tama Moni-Erigbali is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at tamabiere.moni-erigbali@uconn.edu.