Major Blues

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“Be where you are, otherwise you will miss your life” – Buddha

by Natalie

When I started college a year and half ago here at Concordia, I was dead set on being a Music Major.  I wanted to study music and theatre and be become a talented musical theatre star because of it.

Then I started taking Music Theory. And I hated it.

After clawing my way through the first semester, dragging myself to that class every Monday and Wednesday at 8 am, and coercing my classmates to help me with the homework, I decided that I was no longer interested in studying music.

I called my dad, crying, the night before I was supposed to register for spring semester and he granted me wisdom I have since shared with many of my friends and classmates:  your major doesn’t matter.  What you do with your life is not predestined by what it says on your Bachelor’s degree.  So take a few classes in fields that have nothing to do with your major and see if you love something more than you love what you’re already doing.

So I signed up for a political science class, changed my major, and started making plans to go to law school and run for office.

I chose Political Science (“Poli-Sci”) because I knew I could make a living as a lawyer or politician. I knew politics were something I was passionate about (if you’re interested in reading some of my thoughts on politics, feel free to hit up my personal blog).

I figured it was a path that made sense for me.  I loved to read.  I loved to argue.  I was passionate about social and legal change and I was intent on making that change happen.  I decided that I would go forward and become a lawyer for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and go on to run for office someday.

I would marry my significant other, a man who wants to go into theatre, and provide for my future family.

I convinced myself to go all in.  I spent afternoons looking up law schools I would want to go to and could get in to.  I got ahead of myself by about twenty years and, by doing so, I freaked myself out about being a Poli-Sci major.

I went to International Politics a total of 8 times that semester; I spent the other class periods in my bed, panicking about how hard that path was.  I didn’t love it.  I was scared of it. Terrified that I wouldn’t be successful at this and that my future would crumble because of it, I let it consume my life for three months.  My fear of potential failure and a lack of confidence in my abilities pushed me into a downwards spiral that took months to remedy.

I am here today to tell you, dear readers, that you should never let it get that bad.

Remember what I didn’t in my time of major turmoil and future planning: it matters less than you think.  Take the classes that you love.  Take the classes that seem fascinating and worthwhile – not just the ones you think are “necessary.”  Don’t be afraid to drop a class or ask for help; your academic advisor is there just for that.  Don’t be afraid of changing your major; you can change it as many or as few times as you like – you’ll still be successful if you’re willing to work hard.

Every school is different in how they handle the semantics and logistics of changing majors.  But every school will help you do it.  Some schools might be less helpful than others, but your education is yours and yours alone.  If you decide to change your direction, don’t let academic advisors or administrators tell you that you can’t.

It is your money and your time that you are investing in this education and you get to decide what you want to do with it.

This year, I am an English Writing and Theatre Arts double major and I love it.  I’m taking classes that I’m passionate about and not worrying about how much money I’m going to make or whether or not my grades are good enough for me to go to Stanford.

I am focusing on being happy and healthy and being successful here and now.

4-year Universities vs. Community Colleges

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By Alia

Let’s start by playing a little true or false.

1. Universities are big while community colleges are puny.

Answer: FALSE; there is such a thing as a small university and community colleges are plenty big.

2. You get a better education going to 4-year universities versus community colleges.

Answer: FALSE; you get equal education in my opinion (but some universities are picky and might not take credits from elsewhere).

3. Community colleges are for people who weren’t successful the first time around or are behind and need to play catch up.

Answer: FALSE; plenty of people go to community colleges – it’s easier on the wallet, not because they lack the ability to go somewhere else.

4. You need to be super rich or take out a student loan to afford college.

Answer: FALSE; you can get scholarships and grants (free money) to go to college and there are even programs like Power of You (POY) that pay for everything.

5. The system is corrupt and if I’m not the right color I won’t make it.

Answer: FALSE; anyone can make it and you’d be surprised how many people want to see you succeed.

Conclusion – Much of what you hear relating to who goes to community colleges and who goes to 4-year universities is false.

So what’s true?

The difference between going to a community college or university is where you plan to go and how you plan to get there.

Universities are great for their high reputations, they offer more classes, they offer high degrees.

Community colleges are for everyone, they are cheaper than universities, they can be the start or finish.

My advice to you, someone who is in high school right now, is go to a community college and then university if you so desire. Starting out at a big university could be everything you dreamed of, but more than likely you will have more debt. You might end up changing your major and realize you wasted not only your time, but a lot of someone else’s money.

If you want a path where you pay less and get more, I say take my advice. I say go somewhere where people come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and ages with all different backgrounds. I say go somewhere where you can get the same education for less hassle and less out of your pocket. I say go somewhere where you can stumble and get back up with little to no repercussions.

Take it or leave it, but that’s my advice.

When I was deciding where I wanted to go to college, my first choice was the U of M: Twin Cities Campus. I used to work there in the multicultural center in Appleby Hall. I got to learn the layout of the campus by giving tours to children in grades K-8.

I loved it there. I loved the art, I loved the science, I loved the tree full of shoes.

That long bridge was the coolest canvas every club had claim to. I felt alive every day I went to work there and sometimes it was a painful reminder being alive. I didn’t even want to look at other schools, that’s where I wanted to go, but the college and career center at my high school wouldn’t let me pick just one place. They said I needed to apply to at least three schools and I was so bummed, I didn’t care about anyplace else.

I finally gave in and “looked” at some other places. I didn’t want to leave the city, so that narrowed my search fast. I found the Arts Institute and Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) both were in the right place and offered majors I liked. Then I compared costs and saw something surprising – the tuition at MCTC was nowhere near the tuition for the other two options.

I thought, “well they must be so cheap for a reason,” and decided to check out what exactly they were lacking. I took a visit to the school and it didn’t take long before I heard about the Power Of You program. It also didn’t take long before I realized there was nothing missing. There were so many paths for me to take at MCTC for a fraction of the cost, excuse me, for no cost.

I was baffled.

I didn’t know you could go to college for free. The Power Of You program at MCTC took me in and I was surrounded by a group of hard working staff ready to pay for my tuition. All they asked was that I say “hello” every so often, go full-time, have a decent GPA, give back to the community and graduate from a Minneapolis high school.

My parents were sold, and even though I loved the U of M to death, I was too. I did my big exams in high school, sent out my applications, etc. Both the U of M and MCTC accepted me, but at the end of the day, I chose to go to MCTC after doing all my research on the two choices.

MCTC is everything I wanted in a college, even more so than the U of M was. I go to MCTC now as a full time student and I work for the school as a tutor helping other students. I have never been more at home on a campus, they have everything I want/need.

Best of all, I can still continue on to finish a 4-year degree at the U of M, if that’s what I decide to do, and I will have spent a lot less on earning credits my initial years out of high school!

It’s not really a secret, but I never liked school. I did well, but middle school and high school were not only zoos, they were claustrophobic to me. After seeing students trying to jump out of windows on the 3rd floor and dancing on tables and bullying left and right, I was so sick.

In middle school my bullying experiences weren’t from other students, they were from the dean. So you can see, I thought school was a joke. A very messed up joke. I wasn’t even proud of myself when I graduated. I thought college would be as lame if not MORE lame, but college has been awesome. It sometimes doesn’t even feel like school to me, I have too much fun.

Maybe you like school already, that’s cool. I just know too many of us go through it unhappy. I even mentioned before, I have depression. Why am I being so personal? Because I want you to hear my story and maybe it will help you.

My real point is don’t give up. Don’t give up even if things look bad and you feel gross. Don’t give up even if it seems you have no place to go, you always do. Like I’ve said, college isn’t for everyone, but what’s important is that anyone can go to college.

Whether you pick a community college or university, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re a step closer to your dreams and you aren’t being worn down. Make the healthy choice, make the smart choice.

I know you can succeed.

Changing Your Mind Isn’t A Crime

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by Cara

College is a time of change. Some are minor such as studying a different foreign language than the one you did in high school. Other changes are more major like moving to the other side of the country for college.

I’ve changed a lot this year, and I will be making my biggest change this fall. This week is the end of my first year of college and the end of my time at the University of St. Thomas. In the fall, I will be transferring to the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

I’m the type of person who tries to plan ahead for everything. I even have a spreadsheet with my four year plan for college plus one year post grad.

Transferring was not part of that plan.

For many months, I attempted to keep the thought of transferring out of my mind. I kept telling myself that it was normal to feel a little nervous about starting college, but the level of hesitation I felt was much more than a little. If I mentioned my fear that I’d made the wrong decision, I was so worried I would disappoint everyone and that I’d look like a failure.

I think I focused too much on achieving what I thought people expected of me instead of what I really wanted.

My courses at St. Thomas were a variety of new and familiar subjects. I joined a mentorship program and a dance club. I spent my weekends attending the on-campus concert and movie events with free food. Regardless of what I did, my experience was still not what I envisioned it to be.

I didn’t feel like I fit in.

At the U of M, I feel secure enough to authentically be myself. I am comfortable there, but not comfortable to the point that I won’t be able to grow as a person. I feel welcomed enough try new things there like joining student government or writing for the school’s newspaper. I’ve loved the U of M since I attend a week long business camp at their Carlson School of Management. It has a diverse student body, a club for every interest, and it’s close to where my family lives.

My academic interests have also changed. Instead of one of my majors being marketing, I will be doing a management minor. I will still be pursuing a major in journalism, and I’ve added another major in political science. It’s great to head to college with an idea of what you’ll major in, but keep your mind open to falling in love with new subjects.

The experiences you have during the summer and throughout college will help you discover what you enjoy the most.

Transferring isn’t something to take lightly. Deciding to transfer solely because you want to be with a friend, you have a bad roommate experience, or you want to attend a higher ranked school are all potential reasons to reconsider whether a transfer makes sense. Your college experience will be what you make of it, but if you feel it’s not working out for numerous reasons it can’t hurt to explore your options. I’m glad I went ahead and applied early to transfer. Months later when I knew for sure I wanted to transfer, it wasn’t too late.

I thought I would be done with the whole college application process until it was time for graduate school. At times, applying for transfer admission felt more stressful than senior year.

Once you’re accepted to a new college, there’s still more to be done. You have to figure out which courses will toward your degree at the new college. Placement tests and orientation must be completed again. Financial aid can also be just as confusing as the first time. Typically, there are less grants or scholarships available directly from your college when you’re a transfer student. Federal aid and outside scholarships tend to stay at the same amount if you are not leaving the state.

I’ve learned that each person has their opinion of the ideal college experience and one is not more valid than the others.

If something doesn’t feel right after your first college semester, talk to your advisor. Sometimes getting more involved in campus activities, finding a new roommate, or changing your major is all it takes to improve your situation. If you still feel it’s not working, know that there’s nothing wrong with transferring.

Ultimately, what matters is that you pick the best option for you and that you are happy.

Picking a Major/Path

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by Alia

Many of us are asked at a young age what we want to be when we grow up. For some of us the answer stays the same, but for many of us the answer changes over time. In some families and cultures certain paths or careers are seen as better than others. For example, parents might tell us what we should become when we’re older.

Parents usually just want what’s best for their children, they want their children to be successful and bring pride to the family name. The problem in many cases is that parents don’t always know what is truly best – they know what they wish they did with their lives, they know what opportunities they didn’t have, they know what jobs are seen as good by the masses.

If your parent or other parental-like figure is telling you who you should become, then really ask yourself who’s dream job is this? Is it just theirs – or yours also? If you are feeling pressured to become a doctor or a lawyer or something high-paying or respectable like that by your parents take a step back and look at yourself. What do you want to be when you’re older? What do you want to be right now? What are your passions? If it’s not the same as what your parents want for you, then maybe what your parents want isn’t right for you.

Why do so many college students switch majors? In my opinion, it’s because they go into a field not sure what their true passions are. In high school most of us aren’t exposed to the world and all of its possibilities. We only see what our high school and other things in life have shown us.

It’s not just young college students dealing with this either. You might think what you’re going to become is dead-set, but be prepared for changes because they are going to happen. Your path isn’t set until you’ve made it to the end of your journey. As long as you’re alive your path can always change, you can always change as a person. Your passions can change, they can become more or less clear with time.

You are less likely to change your major when you know and understand what really drives you inside. If you’re not doing it for yourself, someday the motivation will dwindle. Exerting yourself for others’ dreams and passions when you don’t share those dreams and passion will eventually wear you down.

Do it for you.

It’s your life, so why should anyone else be writing off your story or your destiny. This may sound like a debate on free will, but let me tell you, some things will happen no matter what and some things are just up to you in life. What you like, what drives you – that’s up to you and no one else.

What if you don’t know what you like, you don’t know your passion in life?

Like I said, be prepared for changes. Maybe you don’t know right now, but you will know some day. College isn’t for everyone. Maybe taking some time off to find yourself is what you need. Explore some different jobs, explore the world, explore yourself and your values. Let time tell the story you don’t yet know. If you’re very passionate about going to college or feel like you have to, then go!

Try liberal arts or another major that lets you explore your options. Do your generals and take a variety of different classes until something clicks inside and you finally know where you want to go. Trial and error is one of the best teachers throughout life’s journey. Some things you have to learn for yourself. All of us have weaknesses and all of us have strengths, so find yours, and that will help you uncover your passion someday.

What if your problem is not that you don’t know your passion – what if you want to do too many things? What if you love too many things, and are passionate about too many things?

Don’t listen if someone tells you to pick just one, don’t lower that bar on your options. Be free and express yourself in everything you love. Some things will become hobbies over time, but never completely give up on your passions just because they become hobbies.

Life can take so many turns so always have a back-up plan and back-up plan for your back-up plan.

Be talented and passionate in multiple things so that no matter what is thrown at you, you can still keep going. My uncle only studied one field, he did well in that one field until it no longer existed. He didn’t have a back-up plan and he never saw this change happening. Now he is jobless and just barely scrapping along because he doesn’t believe he can do anything else.

Don’t be like my uncle, be open and explorative to your options. A hobby could become a career and a career could become a hobby. Don’t limit yourself; be bold and be you. I am double majoring because I couldn’t choose just one thing to be and guess what? I would triple or quadruple major if I was able to. Maybe it sounds like a lot of work, but I am passionate about what I’m studying and so far I haven’t had any problems. This could be you too. The wonderful thing about college is you get to decide what you do for yourself. No one is going to hold your hand and say “be there,” or “do this,” or “you have to”. You get to say those things to yourself because finally it’s something you care about.

College shouldn’t be a chore, it should be the education and experience you always wished you had before. Some people think that can only happen outside of college, but college is an open door and you can do whatever you put your mind to.

You’re only limited by your thinking – by your imagination. Nothing is impossible. Never tell yourself that you can’t do something or become something someday. Maybe odds are stacked against you, but break those odds because there is no one on this Earth like you and averages or stereotypes shouldn’t define what you’re capable of.

Choose your path for yourself and maybe some things will not be in your control, but this is something you decide. If you’re thinking money will stop you, guess what? There are countless scholarships and other ways to pay for college, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. There are programs like Power of You that will pay for it all, if you can do your part.

So don’t falter under the dollar because that piece of fabric ain’t worth the worry when it’s your dreams and your life we are talking about. If you think you don’t have the brains or the skill, guess what? You can develop the brains, you can cultivate the skill. It doesn’t matter how old you are as long as you have the drive. Don’t let people step on your dreams because no one can stop you from dreaming.