Choosing a major is one of the first steps toward laying down the building blocks of an educational future. From undecided to biological sciences, the process of choosing a major can be confusing, lengthy and says a lot about a person’s character.
And it’s a choice that often comes with a story.
“Before I had my son, I didn’t plan on even going back to school,” says 21-year-old City College student Soledad Jimenes. “Now I plan on being a teacher or running a day care.”
Jimenes, who is majoring in early childhood development, is currently a freshman and working on her general education requirements.
She says her son inspired her choice to major in child development.
“[I want to] learn because I see how much my son is learning,” says Jimenes. “I saw how my parents were, and I want to know how to help my son because I had to do everything on my own. I didn’t have support.”
Many students choose their majors based on interests and people who have influenced them in their lives. The City College Career Center on campus offers resources such as Eureka, which provides information on more than 800 career options and more than 1,500 career specialties.
“We want to help students understand their priorities, talents, interests and values,” says City College Career Center job services student personnel assistant Poonam Kelkar. “We use assessment tools with the students, not tests, because it’s based on their interests, not necessarily their abilities.”
Communications major Loi Pho, 51, says he chose his major based on his own experiences after moving here from Vietnam just two years ago. Then, he says, he barely knew any English.
“In English, when you read, you know the words, but when you speak to someone, you don’t know how to explain some things,” says Pho. “In communications you get to make a lot of connections with people. I like that.”
According to the Office of Planning, Research & Institutional Effectiveness, in the 2010-2011 school year, the top five degrees/certificates obtained by City College graduates are social sciences, which came in at first with 303 graduates, followed by nursing with 98 graduates, liberal arts in social/behavioral sciences with 55 graduates, and math/science with 51 graduates and administration of justice with 49 graduates.
Sometimes it is hard for students to choose just one major, and they decide on double majors. Sophomore Regina Sharma, 21, says she is currently interested in both radiology and criminal justice and is trying to decide which major to choose.
“I can’t decide which major I like better or want to do more because they both mean a lot to me,” says Sharma.
Her own life experiences, she adds, influence her decisions.
“Growing up, I went through a lot of stuff that I never want other women to have to go through,” says Sharma. “Rape, domestic violence—I want to stop that.”
Some students will be able to finish their studies at City College in about two years, earning associate degrees and certificates. Others will transfer to a four-year university, and some will transfer to trade schools, such as ITT Technical Institute.
Austin Ikeda, 19, is planning to do the latter so that he can work toward becoming an automotive technician.
“Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to work on cars,” says Ikeda. “I like everything about them, and the engine would be my specialty.”
Ikeda says he was influenced by a family member who led him to decide his career path.
“My dad used to work on cars, and he’s the reason I got into it,” says Ikeda.
Criminal justice major Andre Ware, 18, credits his uncle in helping him decide what to major in because of the example his uncle has given him.
“I want to be a cop because my uncle is a cop,” says Ware. “He really promotes it because he knows I want to do it, and he just wants me to be happy. I like that they [cops] help people, give back, make it a safer place for everyone and kids really look up to them.”