How I chose my major
A student shares her discernment process for her major and her career path
The process of declaring a major is a little different for everyone. Some students come into college knowing exactly what they will study, because it will lead to the career or vocation they know they want to pursue. For others, it’s a winding path.
That’s how it was for me. When I first came to Loyola, I was prepared to declare a major in political science. I had worked as an intern in the office of Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) during my senior year of high school that led me to want to pursue the field.
With that in mind, I took a class in American Politics during my first semester. I learned a lot in that class, but nothing so valuable as what I learned about myself: Politics did not suit my interests. As you can imagine, this revelation left me extremely perplexed and frustrated. I thought I should have some idea of what I wanted to study, and that was not the case. (I’ve since realized that knowing what you don’t want to study is as valuable as figuring out what you do.)
Call on the experts
My adviser at the time, Doug Harris, Ph.D., helped me sort through my thoughts. After writing a list of my strengths and weaknesses, we came to the conclusion that a major in the Sellinger School of Business and Management would be more in line with my interests and goals. I told Dr. Harris that I enjoyed working with others, networking, analyzing data, and problem solving. With that in mind, I narrowed my choices down to three possible majors: finance, marketing, and international business.
I decided to take the core classes offered in Sellinger, which gave me a better grasp about what a business degree of study entailed. I recall taking my first marketing class, MK 240 with Jason Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing. Everything about that class intrigued me. I knew then that marketing was the major I wanted to pursue. It was, more or less, a gut decision.
Match interest with purpose
I felt I was back on track with my academic path, but in addition to my studies, I wanted to recognize and further explore my interest and passion in problem solving. I was taking an Information Systems introductory class as part of my business major, and I soon discovered I really enjoyed this subject. As a result, I decided to minor in Information Systems (IS). While I did this for my own intellectual satisfaction, I soon learned that having a minor in IS made me more marketable to employers when I started my job search.
When I was looking for resources to help me discern my major, I found talking with professors about their career paths and meeting with my advisor helped me through this process. The faculty members at Loyola want you to succeed, so if they don’t have the answers, they do know the direction to point you in. With the support and guidance of my professors, the process of selecting a field of study was far less challenging than I had expected.
I’ve been fortunate to have great professors throughout my college career. Professor Zhang was essential in helping me to realize that marketing was the field of study that I wanted to pursue. I recall sitting down with him and talking about post college opportunities in the business world. He has been very supportive throughout my time at Loyola and was always available and easy to communicate with. And Astrid Schmidt-King, J.D., LL.M., really helped me prepare for my job interview process by giving me great advice. She was my professor for Legal Environment of Business, a class I took first semester my senior year.
In addition, Loyola’s Career Center was a huge resource in both preparing for and lining up interviews with potential employers. I’ve recognized how beneficial the networking connections are through Loyola and with alumni. Loyola students have incredible access to connections, both in the Baltimore-D.C. metro area and all over the country—and world—through the Greyhound network.
Keep three things in mind
My journey in choosing a field of study has diverged at several points while at Loyola, and my experience taught me a few valuable lessons that I hope will inspire future Greyhounds, particularly if there are no “ah-ha!” moments during those first weeks (and even your first year) on campus:
1. Let life work itself out. The less pressure you put on yourself to have a concrete plan, the more you make yourself open to discovering a passion, which could then lead to an area of study.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if that help is just listening to you talk through your decision-making process, your goals, and your interests.
3. At Loyola, there is an abundance of support, guidance, and expertise to be tapped from faculty, administrators, student service departments, and even upperclassmen who have been through the process.
Fast-forward to my senior year, and I am thrilled to say I have accepted a job, which I will start this summer after graduation. Nobody is more surprised than I am to say my job is in the finance sector. I did not think I would end up in finance, given that I concentrated my business focus on marketing, but this is why it is important to embrace the breadth and depth of the academic offerings at Loyola, and equally as important to keep an open mind. I will be bringing everything I learned at Loyola—not only from my business classes, but from core classes, service-learning, studying abroad, and internship experiences—as I begin my next chapter.