College Mania: Choosing a Major

Yamuna H.

If you don’t already know, your major is the area of knowledge you want to study in college. Usually a major program takes up a third to a half of your classes, with the rest being general education requirements and electives. Every college and university is going to have a variety of majors for you to choose from, and they should be listed on that school’s website.

It is not vital to know your major before you apply. Unless you are going into engineering, nursing, or another highly-specified field, you usually do not have to choose a major until the end of your second year in college. In fact, most students change their major at least once before they graduate. However, it is a good idea to know what general area you would like to study. Maybe you’re not sure if you want to major in English or Political Science, but you know you want to study the humanities. Or maybe you can’t decide between Environmental Science and Biology, but you know you would like to study science. These are important things to keep in mind when researching individual schools.

Most students take on only one major, but some take on two or even three. Double-majoring tends to increase a student’s workload and reduce the amount of electives they can take. That said, taking two majors can be a rewarding experience if you truly enjoy both fields of study, and can expand your opportunities after graduation.

Besides majors, there are two other main types of undergraduate degree programs: minors and pre-professional tracks. Students can take, or not take, one or two minors or pre-professional tracks — but they must also have a major. A minor is a shortened version of a major. For example, a minor program in Political Science might require you take six classes, while a major program would require 12. A pre-professional track is similar to a minor, but it prepares you for future study. The most popular pre-professional tracks are pre-med, pre-law, and pre-business. Tracks are a series of classes that you are required to take as an undergraduate before you apply to post-graduate schools such as medical schools, law schools, and business schools. The class requirements are the same at every school. For example, the pre-med track is an 8-class series including Chemistry, Calculus, Biology, and Physics.

If you are certain of what major you’d like to pursue, it’s a good idea to know which schools are known for having strong programs in your major. Try some Google searches like, “Which colleges have the best biology programs?” or “Which California universities have the best biology programs?” That should give you some idea of what you should be looking for. Also, if you have a particular pre-professional track in mind, check to make sure it is offered at the schools you are applying to. It’s usually not mandatory to, for example, take a pre-law track if you plan to go to law school, but it is a good idea to do so. When researching majors on a college’s website, remember that names often vary from school to school. One school may have a major in Journalism, while another school has a major called “Communications, concentration in Journalism.”

The most important thing to keep in mind when considering your major is flexibility. Students who graduate with the major they applied as are in the minority among college graduates. It’s best to have a few possible majors and minors in mind, and plan to explore them in your freshman year classes.

College Mania: WriteGirl’s College Workshop

Yamuna H.

On September 9th, a handful of mentees gathered in the WriteGirl office to work on their college applications. They were advised on several components of the college admissions process, including SAT prep, college selection, and essay writing. Senior mentee Laura L. has this advice to offer to those who could not attend the workshop:

College applications are just around the corner! If there is anything I learned at the latest WriteGirl workshop is this: The petty and stressful years of procrastination have to come to an end. Missing a deadline due to the procrastination monster is NOT worth it!

SO GOODBYE HORRID GREEN AND EVIL MONSTER! GOODBYE!! You will no longer leave me in desperation to complete and turn something in last minute, and when that fails, turning in late assignments for half credit. After all, there is no half credit for college applications. I ask that you all do the same and banish the monster that has been lingering over your shoulders for the last 17 years!

Allison told us that, though the official CSU application due date is November 30th, we should all turn our applications by NOVEMBER FIRST. Let me repeat that, November 1st! And our UC applications should be in by November 15th at the latest. Also, be prepared to send Allison (WriteGirl’s associate director, who guides mentees through their application process) a list of the schools you’re applying to and explain why you’re applying to each. If you’re using fee waivers for your applications, you don’t want to pick random schools. What if the one you don’t like is the one you get into? And if you don’t get waivers, why pay for school applications if you’re not really interested?

One more thing: SATs and ACTs! Be sure to be done with the test taking by the end of November. Most colleges don’t take scores past November. Here’s a few tips for taking the SAT:

  1. Go in for the essay with a variety of ideas to write about in your head. Don’t assume you’ll have to write an essay about Shakespeare, because you never know if the essay will be about a reality TV show or something else. Draw materials from all parts of your life.
  2. Take snacks and water for breaks. You will need brain food!
  3. Obvious one now: Don’t spend too much time on a question you don’t know. Skip it and come back to it later. You lose points for incorrectly answered questions, so it might be better to leave a question blank if you are unsure.
  4. Take practice tests, if you get the opportunity. The more familiar you are with the test the better you’ll do.

Going to these college workshops are always really helpful especially for calming my nerves. If you can come to the next one please do. Good luck to all you seniors! Here are some other pieces of advice from mentees and volunteers who attended:

  • Do your research and make sure all the schools you apply to offer plenty of financial aid.
  • Spend some time on a college’s website before applying.
  • Use CollegeBoard.org to start narrowing down your college choices.
  • WriteGirl can help you get through the application process if you reach out to us!

We will be having another college workshop soon — we’ll be sure to keep you updated via email.

Today’s Writing Advice: Write What You Don’t Know

by Yamuna H.

Write what you know, but be courageous and write what you don’t know.- Lines of Velocity, page 173

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Winner of 6 Book Awards! The 6th Anthology from WriteGirl Publications, LINES OF VELOCITY is a wondrous and diverse collection — stories, poems, songs, musings, rants and essays — showcasing the unique and eclectic female voices of new and accomplished writers from WriteGirl.

Writing what you don’t know can be extremely difficult. It often involves a lot of research and care to make a piece sound authentic when writing with about a setting, occupation, or worldview you are unfamiliar with. However, 100% accuracy is not the foundation of a great story. Creativity is.

Consider icons like Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, or J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter series. Neither of them had experience with the things the wrote about. In fact, Rowling created a whole fictional world in her series. Both Frankenstein and Harry Potter are well-loved because of their authors’ imaginative power. Don’t be afraid to write what you don’t know.

Today, write something you’re unfamiliar with. Pick an occupation that you have never considered for yourself, and write a day in the life of that world.