As many freshmen undergraduates discover firsthand, starting college is a hectic experience. While navigating a huge, unfamiliar campus and a new social landscape can be overwhelming, choosing a STEM discipline to major in doesn’t have to be. Though the decision might seem intimidating at first, there are plenty of constructive and easy ways to explore your options.
Speak to a Departmental Undergraduate Advisor
While a general university academic advisor might be able to point you in the right direction, speaking to the academic advisor for a specific STEM department provides much more insight. If you’re on the fence in making a choice, discussing course requirements, academic workload, and post-graduation job prospects with a department advisor often can answer any lingering questions you might have about a STEM field. Look for the designated advisor on any department website, and make an appointment. Once you make your decision, they can even help you plan your schedule!
Participate in a research project
One of the best ways for an undergraduate student to experience work in STEM is through an undergraduate research experience. While research experiences are often advertised to students interested in graduate school, they can also be a great way to discover what it’s like to work in a particular STEM discipline. Research advisors or graduate students can also act as mentors in your field of interest, and can often answer questions to help you determine your career path — plus, finding research isn’t as hard as you might think!
Join a major-related club
Academic university clubs are a fantastic way to exercise your social side while learning more about STEM, but beyond that, they also put you in contact with upper-class students from the related major. Through a STEM club, you can learn from students who’ve gone through the coursework and know first hand what you’ll be up against in a given science major. To find the right group to join, take some time to look at your school’s student involvement page. Many universities also have chapters of national science organizations like the Society of Physics Students or Society of Women Engineers.
Really consider what makes you happiest
Though this might seem like a silly suggestion, there’s no getting around the fact that STEM majors are extremely demanding. If you’re in a major that you don’t enjoy, it can be harder to motivate yourself in your classwork – and there’s nothing so crushing as working day in and out doing something you hate. If you enroll in major that really speaks to your curiosity, success will come more naturally. If you’re torn between different scientific passions, there are other resources that can help you discover where your heart really lies.
While there’s room to explore, and it is possible to switch majors down the road, determining your best-fit career path early on makes surviving STEM more manageable. Whether you’re a freshman just starting out, or an upperclassman looking for a change, seeking advice and experience through these channels can help in deciding which science is right for you.