Choosing a major is always a difficult, oftentimes daunting task for most students. Majors decide the path your life takes at the College of William and Mary, and many decide your future career. The Office of Academic Advising is meant to help students through that process. With the recent addition of new programs, they are making it easier than ever before.
Majors Information Week, which ran March 18-23, is one new initiative of the academic advising program. The week of events gave many interested students the opportunity to chat with faculty and current majors from specific departments and programs about what it means to major in their discipline.
Previously, the Academic Advising office hosted the Majors Fair.
“We felt that there might be a better way to do this event,” Jobila Williams, director of Academic Advising, said. “We have the Faculty Advisory Board that provides advice to this office on how to run the program. We thought, ‘Let’s capitalize on what departments are already doing.’ It’s easier for us, [for the departments] and the students.”
Over the course of the program, academic departments hosted events that varied in formality, from pizza socials to extended office hours.
“This week is an entirely new thing — in the past, attendance wasn’t always great at the Majors Fair,” government professor Katherine Rahman said. “This makes academic advising more comprehensive, but also more user-friendly. And if you bring food, college students will come!”
Information sessions focused on the direction of majors, logistics and the advising process. Students were able to ask specific questions of students currently in the major, from career options via departmental contacts to the flexibility of the degree. Faculty encouraged students to sit in on classes and also discussed major requirements and common logistical issues.
“It’s really important for students to have an opportunity to explore without pressure and to really experience the environments and communities within a given program,” director of literary and cultural studies and film studies professor Ann Marie Stock said. “Going through this process one-on-one is good, but something else happens in groups and that then enriches the conversation, so it’s been great to have current majors speaking to prospective majors.”
In the literary and cultural studies and film studies event, both a current major and a graduate from the College were in attendance to answer questions.
“Majors Information Week would’ve been great to have when I was a freshman,” Matthew Sonnenfeld ’12 said. “I found out about literary and cultural studies and film studies from [a Resident Assistant] on my freshman hall, who then put me in contact with professors.”
For students, the accessibility of faculty in information sessions helped clarify concerns and spark interest in new areas. Sessions gave students additional sources to learn about the program, such as the International Relations Club for potential IR majors.
“This really clarified major requirements for me,” Tim Duff ’14 said. “It helped me realize that I can minor in sociology and still keep up with my [international relations] major. I also talked to another student at the event and was able to get an idea of who I want to be my advisor.”
By streamlining this process and having it spread over a single week, the Academic Advising office hopes to better market it to students.
“The event is moving in a direction we want to see advising go,” Williams said. “You have your required meeting as a freshman, but you can be floating in sophomore and junior years, and we want students to have the opportunity to engage with faculty as much as possible. So we’re continuing to think of new and innovative ways to support our students — perhaps better than we have in the past. We’re very excited about this.”