Choosing a major and a career path can be a daunting decision.
"I'm really nervous," said Lindha Guerrero, an incoming freshman. "I feel like I'm falling behind everyone else because I'm undecided."
Guerrero isn't alone. Nationwide, 80 percent of college-bound students still haven't decided on a major, and 50 percent of those that have chosen will switch majors two to three times throughout their college experience, according to Fitz Grupe, founder of MyMajors.com.
Luckily, UT's Career Services has many resources to aid in the decision-making process, including assessments and career counseling.
"Career Services is definitely a place that students who are still choosing their major should visit and utilize our resources because we have a lot for them," said Stephanie Kit, associate director of career services.
The program offers free online assessments, such as the Strong Interest Inventory and COMPASS, to use as a starting point to gauge the strongest areas of interest. The SII gives a more in-depth assessment and requires a counselling session with an adviser at Career Services to discuss the results. COMPASS is quicker and more visual, but the results are less comprehensive.
Career Services also has an online database called "What Can I do with This Major?" Kit said this resource is a great way to investigate the details of different majors, including typical careers, employers that hire students with this degree, strategies to become more marketable, projected earnings and current supply and demand.
In addition, UT provides a one-credit course called Counselor Education 205, which involves a more rigorous effort to explore majors and careers. Kit said that switching majors is very common. Taylor Fewell, a rising senior, has changed her major several times, from predental to anthropology to her current major, ecology and evolutionary biology. She said she has finally found the major that she is satisfied with.
"It's hard coming from being so sheltered in high school to being completely independent in college," Fewell said. "College is about finding out who you are, and there's no shame in that.
"My advice to incoming freshmen would be to stay open to everything. You have time to figure things out. Just make sure to keep your GPA up and maintain your scholarships so you can have the chance to keep exploring."
Several new policies at UT, such as Utrack and the 15-in-4 tuition model, have made education paths more rigid. As the associate director of career services, Kit has noticed that these programs, along with the credit hour limitations of the HOPE scholarship, have put more pressure on students to choose a major and stick with the curriculum.
"With all the new tracking systems for majors it's going to feel even more important to students to decide quickly on a major because they are going to have to meet these different milestones," she said.
Due to the stricter rules, students will have to find other ways to explore majors and careers outside of the classroom. One way to do so is to get involved on campus.
"Test your interests," Kit advised. "If you don't know what you want to do, start volunteering and participating in student organizations and groups because that will help you learn more about yourself and what's out there.
"Don't be scared of being undecided. Be proactive, do the research and find a career you will really enjoy."
Resources provided by Career Services can be found at career.utk.edu and career counseling appointments in Dunford Hall can be set up by calling (865)-974-5435.