Starting college: The many ways to reach your goals
By Dr. Lisa McIntyre and Audrey Hawkes
As you prepare for your first year of college, you’ve probably been encouraged to join clubs, attend on-campus events, join study groups and take part in a variety of other activities to expand your social circle and extracurricular interests. But what you might not have heard is that you can also explore and try new things within your academic and career paths.
The myth that you need to know exactly what career you want and how you’re going to get there is just that: a myth. You don’t even have to know what specific career you want in order to pick a major, and if you do have a career in mind there are many majors that can get you there. As a Sun Devil, you’ll find there are many ways to reach your big-picture goals, as well as opportunities to explore your academic interests, get involved in research and take classes in subjects you’ve never considered before. Exploration isn’t just allowed at Arizona State University — it’s encouraged.
Here are a few tips to help you bust the myth that you can only follow one path to success in college:
Try new subjects. Are you curious about art history, King Arthur, the science of musical instruments or computer programming? Enroll in a class! All ASU students are required to take a certain number of general studies classes outside of their majors, so don’t worry about falling “behind.” These opportunities are built into your Major Map to ensure that every student has a well-rounded experience by the time they graduate. As a matter of fact, most employers are looking for candidates with diverse perspectives.
Take time to explore. Did you know ASU offers majors just for students who aren't quite sure what is the best fit for them? The College of Integrative Sciences and Arts offers four exploratory tracks, allowing students to explore courses within a broad area of academic focus. When it comes time for you to declare a major, you'll have taken all the necessary courses already, so you won't be off track. ASU has more than 400 majors, and all those choices can be overwhelming. But it also means that you're certain to find something that genuinely interests you.
Be your own advocate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — there are many people at ASU whose jobs are to assist you in solving your problems. They can answer any questions you have or connect you with someone who can. Remember, coming to ASU is a transition for everyone, no matter their prior life experience. You’re not the first to face challenges, which means that we have solutions available for any problem you might encounter. All you have to do is let us know.
Take risks. If you want to try something totally different, you should go for it. College is the perfect time in your life to explore new ideas. And if it doesn’t work out, don’t sweat it — talk to an advisor or academic success coach if you need help getting back on track or finding another option that works better for you.
Be flexible. Once you begin college, your path may change from what you’re planning now. You’re going to encounter things that you didn’t anticipate, and that’s not a bad thing. Experiences, classes and opportunities are going to come up that will open doors you didn’t know about before. Things that seem like a big deal in the moment aren’t make-or-break in the long run.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you head into your freshman year is that we’ve got your back. Use resources like First-Year Success Coaches, academic advising, the GetSet platform (you’ll learn about this in your freshman ASU success course), the me3 interactive tool and more. Your job is to expand your horizons and make the most of your ASU experience. It’s our job to connect you to the right resources at the right time, ensuring you have what you need to thrive.
Lisa McIntyre is the executive director for advising and student advancement in the Office of the University Provost at Arizona State University.
Audrey Hawkes is a writer and collaborator for the Adulting 101 blog.