Starting college can be an exciting and confusing time.  There are so many different options and decisions to be made: where you’re going to live, who your roommate(s) will be, and what clubs to join.  Over the course of your time here at UT, it will get easier. This article is one means to the road of an easier first-year experience for you on the UT campus.  In this article, I will discuss how you can explore your options (specifically your college major) more swiftly and confidently within your educational career. This is a necessary part in plotting the layout of your professional career and to achieving your individual interests.  Get ready to strap on your boots and dive headfirst into your future!

Whether you’re not quite sure if you have chosen the right major for yourself or you haven’t yet chosen the field you’re to study...Never fear!  You are not alone. You do not have to declare your major, officially until junior year. Don’t be relieved just yet. Though you are not required to declare a major until junior year, each major at The University of Tennessee has certain requirements in place for earning a degree in that field.  This gives those who have declared their major confidently a slight advantage due to the fact that they can start taking the classes they need for their major earlier on. 

Tracking your credit hours

It is important that you keep track of how many credit hours you are taking per semester. On average, it is highly recommended to take 30+ credit hours of classes per year to be on a steady track to earning your 4-year degree. This will have you at earning approximately 120+ however this does not include if you have taken on a minor.  Taking approximately 30+ hours a year will help you better observe the advancement towards your degree. For freshman year, many students take pre-requisites which is required for all students who have not earned credits from any higher-level AP, IB, or dual enrollment classes. You have the liberty to also take elective courses. I would recommend taking classes that correlate with potential majors that interest you or classes that relate to a major you have already chosen; this could advance your knowledge in that particular field.  

Browsing Different Majors

There are ways provided by UT to guide students toward majors that might fit them if you are still uncertain.  There is a website that allows you to see a list of all the majors provided by UT. It also shows the requirements that the major holds.  https://catalog.utk.edu/content.php?catoid=1&navoid=109 The requirements are subject to change, so contact your academic adviser for inquiries.  And for those who are uncertain about their majors and would like to find out more, I recommend asking a professor permission to sit into one of their lectures.  This will help you discover if the field you are interested in studying is the right path for you. It will help you “ get a feel” of what that major is about and truly understand the meaning of it.

Center for Career Development

If you need extra guidance on what career path or major is right for you the Center for Career Development is a very useful resource.  They offer counseling and advising appointments. There is also an assessment that you can take in order to pinpoint your interests and to give you perspectives on what may be a good field for you.  Sometimes it is comforting to have a little extra personal help. Determining your future can be stressful and nerve-racking so having a resource like this on campus is comforting. They are located on the 2nd level of the Student Union. https://career.utk.edu/

The Risk of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is a great experience that I believe every student should have the opportunity to experience.  It allows for a stronger and more personal learning experience that is unique to each individual student. Though studying abroad is mainly learning-based and you can earn college credit while doing so, there is a chance that it could set you back from earning as many credits there than if you were still at UTK.  Depending on when you study abroad, for how long you study abroad, and what you are studying abroad, there is a chance that you might fall a little bit behind. However, this is different for everyone and I would advise talking to a study abroad advisor in the Study Abroad Office. https://programsabroad.utk.edu/ Also talk with your academic advisor and a study abroad advisor of your respective college.  Lastly, this is not to dissuade you from studying abroad, just for you to take into consideration all variables that could affect your graduation date.

Most of us hope to graduate in four years.  There are other factors in addition to the ones I have listed that can affect this.  Just remember that taking longer to graduate means spending more money for each class and each semester you have to stay.  It is important to be cautious of it. Many of us know that it is a great possibility that we will be in college for longer than 4 years but in order to get out as soon as possible, it is important to try your best to get what you need to get done..DONE.   

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