One of the wonderful things that can happen for a student during college is to have the opportunity to explore a field of study. Your college student may know exactly what they want to do, or they may still be undecided and want to explore options. Even if they know the field in which they would like to major, your student may want to explore possibilities within the field. One natural way to do some of this exploring is to talk to people. Encourage your student to talk to other students in the field, talk to family members who may work in the field or related fields, talk to people they admire, talk to a Career Office on campus, talk to their advisor and talk to faculty members in the area.
Talking to others is good advice, but many students worry about how to talk to someone – particularly a faculty member – about an area of study. Most people who enjoy their field are more than happy to talk about it, but they may need a bit of guidance about what is helpful. Below are some possible questions you might suggest to your college student that will help them get a conversation started. Your student probably won’t ask all of them, but they may open up some possibilities – and hopefully will help them think of more questions on their own.
- What drew you to this field?
- What about this major or area interests you?
- What types of people do well in this field? Why types don’t succeed?
- What classes would you recommend to give me a real sense of this field of study?
- What kinds of topics will I study in this major?
- What skills will this major help me to develop?
- What kinds of careers are available for students who graduate with this major?
- Are there certain minors that would work well with this major?
- Do careers in this field usually require education beyond an undergraduate degree?
- Do you have any suggestions for internships or work experiences in this field?
- Are there any campus student groups in this major?
- Are there professional associations related to the field that I could join as a student?
- Can you suggest anyone else that I should contact, or anything else I should do to explore this field?
Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list of questions. But thinking about some of these questions should help your student get a conversation about a major started. Getting started is often the most difficult part. Working on good listening skills will also help your student to pursue some of the answers with follow-up questions. Who knows where the conversation can lead? Your student may be surprised, not only by how much they learn, but by how much they enjoy the conversations!