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(Oct. 17, 2002, Gazette)

Decisions, decisions

It's all about the choices. Anyone in university advertising should consider using this slogan: "University … a place to make choices." If you like choices this sure is the place for you.

In high school you get a course selection sheet and feel empowered by your education; choosing between chemistry and physics for your 3000 level science credit makes you feel mature and in control. Then suddenly you are thrust into the realm of university and a sea of first-year courses. Panic sets in and you start to ponder your future.

For many people this is the first time they have considered all the possibilities.

I thought I had it figured out — a bachelor of arts with a major in English and a minor in political science. When people asked me what my intended program was I'd tell them with confidence, then they'd reply, “Yeah, but you're a first year, things will change.”

It's only midterm and already I am thinking about other options. Maybe I'll try business, psychology or sociology. There is a comforting feeling knowing that others are feeling as I do.

Suddenly it's not just about courses but about an intended goal. Where do I see myself in 10 years becomes a regular question I find myself asking. I see myself as a graduate of journalism school, working with a radio or television station doing a combination of reporting and advertising. There's just one little problem … choosing the undergraduate degree to get into journalism school.

I spoke to Marie Donovan, of the Academic Advising Centre, and she told me that one of the most important questions a students can answer is “Am I an arts or science person?”

This immediately narrows what programs you would be interested in. If you’re a science-minded student, doors like engineering, a bachelor of science, nursing and pharmacy open. For the arts enthusiasts, business, a bachelor of arts, social work and education all become possibilities.

To narrow it further, students might consider whether or not they are interested in an open-ended degree like arts or science or a professional degree such as engineering or social work. While no one is claiming that these are the easiest choices to make, chances are you probably already know the answers to them.

Ms. Donovan said that one of the main reasons some students have difficulty in deciding on a major or a program is because high school is so different from university. Courses like linguistics, folklore and kinesiology aren’t offered in your average Newfoundland high school. Some students just don't have enough information on the courses to make informed decisions in their first year. Usually people take such courses out of interest and, if they enjoy the field, might choose one of them as a major.

Ms. Donovan encourages first years and anyone who is undecided about their academic future to visit the Academic Advising Centre and make use of their services. There you can learn how to apply to the different programs and also what the admission requirements are for your intended program. They also offer information that's not provided in the calendar, such as what types of students were accepted into the programs in previous years.

University shouldn't be drudge work. Sure you may have to fill a few requirements that aren’t the most enjoyable courses, but overall you should enjoy your classes and your program. If not, you may ask yourself if you are studying what you really enjoy.

I choose to think of university as an investment. Something I am doing for myself that will one day allow me to work in a creative environment where I can do what I've always wanted to. It's just all about figuring out what undergraduate degree program will best lead me to my intended career.

Katie Norman is an arts student pursuing a major in English, and a minor in political science, but that could change.