Monthly Archives: January 2017

how to decide on a college major by Joe Cuseo

The following material has been excerpted from Cuseo, et al. (2016), Thriving in College & Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development. (4th ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.


Educational Planning & Academic Decision-Making

Making Wise Choices about College Courses and a College Major



chapter preview

Making strategic choices about your courses and your major is essential to reaching your educational goals. You want to be sure your choice of major is compatible with your personal interests, talents and values. You should also have a strategic plan in mind (and in hand) that l enables you to strike a healthy balance between exploring your major options and making a final commitment. This chapter will help you strike this balance and make educational decisions that put you in the best position to reach your long-term goals.



Equip you with effective strategies for choosing courses wisely and pursuing an educational path that’s consistent with your personal interests, talents, and goals.



ignite Your Thinking

Reflection 11.1


At this point in your college experience, are you decided or undecided about a major?


  1. If you’re undecided, what subjects are you considering as possible majors?


  1. If you’re decided:


  1. a) What’s your choice?


  1. b) What led you to this choice?


  1. b) How sure are you about this choice? (Circle one.)


absolutely sure        fairly sure        not too sure     likely to change



To Be or Not to Be Decided: What Research Shows about Students’ Choice of a College Major


“What’s your major?” is a question that students are asked over and over again—even before they’ve stepped foot on a college campus. You probably also saw this question on every one of your college applications and you’re likely to hear it again during your very first term in college. Family members are also likely to ask you the same question, particularly if they’re paying or helping to pay the high cost of a college education. They want to be assured that their investment will pay off and they’re more likely to feel assured if they know you’re committed to a major and are on your way to a self-supporting career.


Studies of student decisions about a college major show that:

  • Fewer than 10 percent of new college students feel they know a great deal about the field they intend to major in
  • As students proceed through the first year of college, they grow more uncertain about the major they chose when they entered college
  • More than one-third of new students change their mind about their major during their first year of college
  • Only one in three college seniors eventually major in the same field they had in mind when they began college (Cuseo, 2005; HERI, 2014).


These findings demonstrate that the vast majority of first-year students are uncertain about their academic specialization. Typically, they don’t make a final decision about their major before starting college; typically, they reach that decision during their college experience.

Thus, being initially undecided about a major isn’t something you should be worried or embarrassed about; it doesn’t mean you’re clueless. It may just mean you’re open-minded. In fact, studies show that new students are often undecided for very good reasons. Some are undecided simply because they have multiple interests; this is a healthy form of indecision indicating they have a wide range of interests and a high level of intellectual curiosity. Students may also be undecided because they are reflective and deliberate decision-makers who prefer to explore their options carefully before making a firm and final commitment. In a national study of students who were undecided about a major at the start of college, 43 percent of them had some majors in mind but weren’t quite ready to make a final commitment to one of them (Gordon & Steele, 2003).


“All who wander are not lost.”

—J. R. R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings


For new students to be at least somewhat uncertain about their educational goals at the start of their college experience is only natural because they haven’t yet experienced the variety of subjects found in the college curriculum. One goal of general education is to help new students develop the critical thinking skills needed to make wise choices and well-informed decisions, including their decision about a college major.

The college curriculum will introduce you to new fields of study, some of which you never experienced before and all of which represent possible choices for a college major. A key benefit of experiencing the variety of courses in the general education curriculum is that they help you become more aware of the variety of academic disciplines and subject areas available to you as potential majors, while at the same time, helping you become more aware of yourself. As you gain experience with the college curriculum, you will gain greater self-insight into your academic interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Take this self-knowledge into consideration when choosing a major because you want to pursue a field that capitalizes on your intellectual curiosity, abilities and talents.


You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

—Theodore Seuss Giesel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss), Oh the Places You’ll Go


It’s true that some students can take too long to choose a major or procrastinate about making important decisions. However, it’s also true that some students make decisions too quickly, resulting in premature choices made without sufficient reflection and careful consideration of their options. Judging from the large number of students who end up changing their major, it’s probably safe to say that more students make the mistake of reaching a decision about a major too quickly rather than waiting too long.

If you’re currently feeling pressure to make an early decision, we encourage you to respectfully resist it until you’ve gain more self-knowledge and more experience with the college curriculum and co-curriculum. As a first-year student, you can still make steady progress toward your destination (a college degree) by taking general education courses that will count toward a college degree in any major you eventually declare.

If you think you’re certain about a major right now, be sure to take a course or two in the major to test it out and confirm if it’s a “good fit” for your personal interests, talents, and values. If you discover that your first choice wasn’t a good choice, don’t think you’re “locked” into that major and your only option is to stick with it or drop out of college. You still have time to change your mind without falling far behind. Changing your original educational plans is not necessarily a bad thing. It may mean that your first choice wasn’t the best choice for you and that you’ve discovered another field that’s more compatible with your personal interests and talents.

The only drawback to delaying your choice of a major, or changing your original major, is waiting too long to make your first choice or to change your mind about your first choice. Prolonged delay in initially choosing a major or late changing of majors can lengthen your time to college graduation. It can also increase the cost of your college education because you may need to complete additional courses for your newly chosen major—particularly if it’s in a very different field than your original choice. The key to preventing this late-change scenario from happening to you is to engage in long-range educational planning early in your college experience—beginning now.


“I see so many people switch [their] major like 4 or 5 times; they end up having to take loads of summer school just to catch up because they invest time and money in classes for a major that they end up not majoring in anyway.”

–College sophomore


When students are required to declare a major varies across different campuses and different fields of study. As a general rule, you should reach a firm and final decision about your major during your second (sophomore) year in college. However, no matter how much time you’re allowed to make this decision, the process of planning for your major should start now—during your first term in college.


Reflection 11.2

Have you decided on a major?


If yes, how sure are you about your decision? What led you to this decision?


If no, what major(s) are you considering? Why?



The Importance of Long-Range Educational Planning


If you haven’t declared a major, it doesn’t mean you’re indecisive or a hopeless procrastinator. However, it also doesn’t mean you can put all thoughts about your major on the back burner and simply drift along until you’re forced to make a choice. Being undecided doesn’t mean you have no plan; your plan is to find out what your major will be. Now is the time to start the major-selection process by testing your interests and narrowing down your choices.

Similarly, if you’ve already chosen a major, this doesn’t mean that you’ll never have to give any more thought to that decision. Instead, you should continue the exploration process by carefully testing your first choice, making sure it’s a choice that is compatible with your abilities and interests. Take the approach that this is your current choice; whether it becomes your firm and final choice will depend on how well you perform (and how interested you are) in the first courses you take in the field.

Developing a long-range educational plan enables you to take a proactive approach to your education—you take charge of it by taking early and preemptive action that anticipates your future. Rather than waiting and passively letting your educational future happen to you, advanced planning makes it happen for you.


“Some people make things happen, while others watch things happen or wonder what has happened.”

–Author unknown


By looking beyond your first year of college and engaging in long-range educational planning, you’re able to get a sneak preview and big-picture overview of your entire college experience. In contrast, looking at and scheduling your classes one term at a time—just before each registration period—carves up your college experience into a choppy series of small, separate snapshots that leave you with little sense of continuity, connection and direction. Later in this chapter, you will find directions and guidelines on how to develop a long-range educational plan. We strongly encourage you to complete this exercise. It’s an opportunity for you to begin steering your educational future in a direction that has meaning and purpose for you.


Keep in mind that a long-range educational plan isn’t something set in stone. As you gain more educational experience, your specific academic and career interests may change and so may the specifics of your long-range plan. The purpose of a plan is not to tie you up or pin you down, but provide you with a roadmap that keeps you on course and moving in the right direction.


Factors to Consider When Choosing a Major


Self-awareness is the critical first step in the process of making any effective personal decision or choice. You need to know yourself well before knowing what major is best for you. When choosing a major, self-awareness should include awareness of your:


  • mental abilities and talents
  • learning styles and tendencies
  • personal interests and curiosities


Research indicates that students who choose majors that are compatible with their personal attributes are more likely to be academically successful in college and complete their degree (Leuwerke, et al., 2004; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005).


Multiple Intelligences: Becoming Aware of Your Mental Abilities and Talents


One personal characteristic you should be aware of when choosing a major is your mental strengths, abilities, or talents. Intelligence was once considered to be a single, general trait that could be identified by one intelligence test score. Scholars have since discovered that intelligence doesn’t come conveniently wrapped in a one-size-fits-all package. The singular word “intelligence” has been replaced by the plural word “intelligences” to reflect the fact that humans display intelligence (mental ability) in a variety of forms other than that measured by their score on an IQ or SAT test.

Based on studies of gifted and talented individuals, experts in different lines of work, and research on the human brain, psychologist Howard Gardner (1993, 1999, 2006) has identified the multiple forms of intelligence listed in Box 11.1. Keep these forms of intelligence in mind when you’re choosing a college major because different majors emphasize different intellectual skills (Brooks, 2009). Ideally, you want to pursue an academic field that allows you to utilize your strongest mental skills and talents. If you do, you’re likely to master the concepts and skills required by your major more efficiently and more deeply, excel in courses required by your major, and experience a higher level of academic self-confidence and motivation to continue your education.


“Exceptional individuals have a special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses.”

—Howard Gardner, Extraordinary Minds



Box 11.1


Multiple Forms of Intelligence


As you read through the following forms of intelligence, place a checkmark next to the type that you think represents your strongest ability or talent. (You can possess more than one type.)


  1. 1. Linguistic Intelligence: ability to comprehend the meaning of words and communicate

through language (e.g., verbal skills relating to speaking, writing, listening, and learning

foreign languages).


  1. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: aptitude for understanding logical patterns (e.g.,

making and following logical arguments) and solving mathematical problems (e.g.,

working well with numbers and quantitative calculations).


  1. 3. Spatial Intelligence: aptitude for visualizing relationships among objects arranged in

different spatial positions and ability to perceive or create visual images (e.g., forming

mental images of three-dimensional objects; detecting detail in objects or

drawings; drawing, painting, sculpting, and graphic design; strong sense of

direction and capacity to navigate unfamiliar places).


  1. Musical Intelligence: ability to appreciate or create rhythmical and melodic sounds (e.g.,

playing, writing, or arranging music).


  1. Interpersonal (Social) Intelligence: ability to relate to others and accurately identify their

needs, motivations, or emotional states; effective at expressing emotions and

feelings to others (e.g., interpersonal communication skills, ability to accurately “read”

the feelings of others and meet their emotional needs).


  1. Intrapersonal (Self) Intelligence: ability to introspect and understand your own

thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (e.g., capacity for personal reflection; emotional self-

awareness; self-insight into personal strengths and weaknesses).


  1. Bodily–Kinesthetic (Psychomotor) Intelligence: ability to control one’s own body

skillfully and learn through bodily sensations or movements; skilled at tasks involving

physical coordination, working well with hands, operating machinery, building models,

assembling things, and using technology.


“I used to operate a printing press. In about two weeks I knew how to run it and soon after I could take the machine apart in my head and analyze what each part does, how it functioned, and why it was shaped that way.

—Response of college sophomore to the questions: “What are you really good at? What comes easily or naturally to you?”


  1. Naturalist Intelligence: ability to carefully observe and appreciate features of the natural

environment; keen awareness of nature or natural surroundings; ability to understand

causes and consequences of events occurring in the natural world.


  1. Existential Intelligence: ability to conceptualize phenomena and ponder experiences that

go beyond sensory or physical evidence, such as questions involving the origin of human

life and the meaning of human existence.


Sources: Gardner (1993, 1999, 2006).




Reflection 11.3

Look back at the nine forms of intelligence listed in Box 11.1.


Which of these types of intelligence do you think represents your strongest talent(s)?


Which college major(s) do you think may best match your natural talents?



Learning Styles: Becoming Aware of Your Learning Preferences and Tendencies


Another personal characteristic you should be aware of when choosing a major is your learning style. It refers to the way in which you prefer to perceive information (receive or take it in) and process information (deal with it after taking it in). For instance, students may differ in terms of whether they prefer to take information by reading about it, listening to it, seeing an image or diagram of it, or physically touching and manipulating it. Individuals may also vary in terms of whether they like to receive information in a structured, orderly format or in unstructured formats that allows them the freedom to explore, play with, and restructure it in their own way. Individuals may also differ in terms of how they prefer to process (deal with) information after it’s been received. Some may like to think about it on their own, while others prefer to discuss it with someone else; some may like to outline it, while others prefer to map it out or draw it.


Author’s Experience

In my family, whenever something needed to be assembled or set up (e.g., a ping-pong table or new electronic equipment), I noticed that my wife, my son, and myself had very different learning styles. I like to read the manual’s instructions carefully and completely before I even attempt to touch anything. My son prefers to look at the pictures or diagrams in the manual and uses them as models to find parts; then he begins to assemble those parts. My wife seems to prefer not to look at the manual at all. Instead, she likes to figure things out as she goes along, grabbing different parts from the box, assembling those parts that look like they should fit into each other, and piecing them together as if she were completing a jigsaw puzzle.

—Joe Cuseo

“Minds differ still more than faces.”

–Voltaire, eighteenth-century French author and philosopher


There are tests specially designed to assess your learning style. (If you’re interested in taking one, the Learning Center and Career Center are two places on campus where you may be able to do so.) Probably the most frequently used learning styles test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)—a test based on the personality theory of psychologist Carl Jung. It assesses how people vary along a scale (low to high) on each of four sets of opposing traits.

Research indicates that college students who score high on the introversion scale of the MBTI are more likely to stay engaged and attentive when performing mental tasks that require repetition and involve little external stimulation (Bodanovich, Wallace, & Kass, 2005). Findings such as these suggest that students may differ in terms of the academic tasks they prefer to perform. For instance, it’s been found that students who score differently on the MBTI prefer different writing styles and writing assignments (Jensen & Ti Tiberio, cited in Bean, 2001). These differences are visually summarized below.

Keep your learning style in mind when choosing your major because different academic fields emphasize different styles of learning. Some fields place heavy emphasis on structured, tightly focused writing (e.g., science and business), while other fields encourage writing with personal style, flair, and creativity (e.g., English). How your writing style meshes with the style emphasized by different academic fields is one factor to consider when choosing a college major.

Another popular learning styles test is the Learning Styles Inventory (Dunn, Dunn, & Price, 1990), originally developed by David Kolb, a professor of philosophy (Kolb, 1976, 1985). It identifies individuals whose learning style falls into the following categories:

□ Accommodator

□ Diverger

□ Converger

□ Assimilator


Research indicates that students who display differences in these four learning styles tend to major in different fields (Svinicki, 2004; Svinicki & Dixon, 1987). “Assimilators” are more often found majoring in mathematics and natural sciences (e.g., chemistry and physics), probably because these subjects emphasize reflection and abstract thinking. In contrast, “accommodators” tend to be more commonly found majoring are business, accounting and law, perhaps because these fields involve taking practical action and making concrete decisions. “Divergers” are more often attracted to majors in the fine arts (e.g., music, art, and drama), humanities (e.g., history and literature), or social sciences (e.g., psychology and political science), possibly because these fields emphasize accommodating multiple (divergent) viewpoints and perspectives. In contrast, “convergers” are more often found majoring in fields such as accounting, engineering, medicine, and nursing, probably because these subjects require student to focus in on (converge on) finding a specific answer to a specific problem (Kolb, 1976). When college instructors were asked to classify academic fields in terms of the type of learning style emphasized by the field, this same pattern of preferences was discovered (Biglan, 1973; Schommer-Aikins, Duell, & Barker, 2003).

Since students have different learning styles and academic fields emphasize different styles of learning, it’s important to consider how your learning style meshes with the style of learning emphasized by the field you’re considering as a major. If the styles seem to match or are closely compatible, the marriage could be one that leads to a very satisfying and successful learning experience.

We recommend taking a trip to the Learning Center or Career Development Center on your campus to take a learning styles test, or take the learning styles inventory that accompanies this text (see the inside of the front cover for details Even if the test doesn’t help you choose a major, it will at least help you become more aware of your learning style. This alone could contribute to your academic success because studies show that when college students gain greater self-awareness of their learning style, their academic performance tends to improve (Claxton & Murrell, 1987; Hendry, et al., 2005).


Reflection 11.5

In addition to taking formal tests to assess your learning style, you can gain awareness of your learning styles through some simple self-reflection. Take a moment to reflect on your learning style by completing the following statements:

I learn best if …

I learn most from …

I enjoy learning when …


Do you see any pattern in your answers that may suggest that certain majors would be compatible with your learning style?


(Complete Exercise 11.3 at the end of the chapter to see if your learning style and personality traits are a good match for the major you’ve chosen or are considering.)


Author’s Experience

I first noticed that students in different academic fields may have different learning styles when I was teaching a psychology course to students majoring in nursing and social work. Some students seemed to lose interest (and patience) in class whenever we got involved in extended discussions of controversial issues and theories, while others seemed to love it. On the other hand, during lectures that required students to take notes on factual and practical information, some students seemed to lose interest (and attention) while others perked up, listened attentively, and really got into the process of taking notes.

After one class session that involved quite a bit of student discussion, I reflected on the students that were most involved and those who seemed to drift off or lose interest. I discovered that the students who did most of the most talking and seemed most enthused during the class discussion were students majoring in social work. Most of the students who appeared disinterested or a bit frustrated were the nursing majors. The more I thought about this, it dawned on me that nursing students were accustomed to gathering factual information and learning practical skills in their major courses; they were expecting to use that learning style in my psychology course. They felt more comfortable with structured class sessions in which they received lots of factual, practical information from the professor. On the other hand, the social work majors were more comfortable with unstructured class discussions because courses in their major often emphasized debating social issues and processing to multiple viewpoints.

When I left class that day, I wondered if the differences in learning styles between the nursing and social work students resulted from their adapting to the primary teaching method used in their major, or if they chose their major because its primary teaching method was a good match for their learning style.

—Joe Cuseo



Discovering a Major that’s Compatible with Your Personal Interests and Talents


In addition to knowing your intellectual strengths and learning styles, another key factor to factor into your decisions about a college major are your interests. Here are some specific strategies for exploring and confirming whether a major is compatible with your educational interests.


Reflect on past learning experiences that you found stimulating and were productive. Think about previous classes that piqued your curiosity and in which you produced your best work. The subjects of these courses may be major fields of study that match up well with your interests, talents, and learning style.

At the website:, you can enter information about your academic performance in high school courses. Your inputted information will be analyzed and you’ll receive a report on what college majors appear to be a good match for you. You can do the same for the first courses you complete in college.


Take a look at introductory textbooks in the field you’re considering as a major. Review the table of contents and read a few pages of the text to get some sense of the writing style used in the field and whether the topics are compatible with your educational interests. You should be able to conveniently find introductory textbooks for different fields of study in your college bookstore.


Seek out students majoring in the subject you’re considering and ask them about their experiences. Talk to several students in the field you’re considering to get a different and balanced perspective on what it’s like. You can find these students by visiting student clubs on campus related to the major (e.g., psychology club or history club). You could also check the class schedule to see when and where classes in that major are meeting. Go there and speak with students about the major, either before or after class. The following questions may be good ones to ask students in a major you’re considering:

  • What attracted you to this major?
  • What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of majoring in this field?
  • Knowing what you know now, would you choose the same major again?

Also, ask students about the quality of teaching and advising in the department. Studies show that different departments within the same college or university can vary greatly in terms of the quality of teaching as well as their educational philosophy and attitude toward students (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; 2005).


Sit in on some classes in the field you’re considering as a major. If the class you’d like to visit is large, you may be able to just slip into the back row and listen. If the class is small, ask the instructor for permission. When visiting a class, focus on the content or ideas being covered rather than the instructor’s personality or teaching style. Remember: you’re trying to decide whether to major in the subject, not the teacher.


Discuss the major you’re considering with an academic advisor. To get unbiased feedback about the pros and cons of majoring in that field, it’s probably best to speak with an academic advisor who works with students from a variety majors. If you’re still interested, you can follow up by getting more detailed information by consulting with an advisor who works primarily with students in that particular major.


Speak with faculty members in the department. Consider asking them the following questions:

  • What academic skills or qualities are needed for a student to be successful in your field?
  • What are the greatest challenges faced by students majoring in your field?
  • What do students seem to like most and least about majoring in your field?
  • What can students do with a major in your field after graduation?
  • What types of graduate programs or professional schools would a student in your major be well prepared to enter?


(See faculty interview exercise at the end of this chapter.)


Surf the website of the professional organization associated with the field you’re considering as a major. These websites often contain useful information for students interested in pursuing major in the field. To locate the professional website for a field you would like to explore as a major, ask a faculty member in that field or complete a search on the web by simply entering the name of the field followed by the word “association.” For example, if you’re thinking about becoming anthropology major, check out the website of the American Anthropological Association. If you’re considering history as a major, take a look at the website of the American Historical Association. The website of the American Philosophical Association contains information about nonacademic careers for philosophy majors, and the American Sociological Association’s website identifies various careers that sociology majors are qualified to pursue.


Visit your Career Development Center to inquire about what college graduates have gone on to do with the major you’re considering. Ask if the Center has information about the type of careers the major can lead to and what graduate or professional school programs students often enter after completing the major.


Be sure you’re aware of all courses required for the major you’ve chosen or are considering. You can find this information in your college catalog, university bulletin, or campus website. If you’re in doubt, seek assistance from an academic advisor.

Sometimes college majors require courses you would never expect to be required. Students interested in majoring in the field of forensics are often surprised by the number of science courses for this major. Keep in mind that college majors often require courses in fields outside of the major that are designed to support the major. For instance, psychology majors are often required to take at least one course in biology, and business majors are often required to take calculus.

If you’re interested in majoring in a particular field, be sure you are fully aware of such outside requirements and are comfortable with them. Once you’ve accurately identified all courses required for the major you’re considering, ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. Do the course titles and descriptions appeal to my interests and values?
  2. Do I have the abilities or skills needed to do well in these courses?


Be sure you know if certain academic standards must be met to be admitted to the

major. Some college majors may be “impacted” or “oversubscribed,” meaning that more students are interested in majoring in these fields than there are openings for students to major in them. Majors that are often most likely to be oversubscribed are pre-professional fields which lead directly to a particular career (e.g., engineering, premed, nursing, or physical therapy). On some campuses, these majors are called “restricted” majors, meaning that departments control their enrollment by restricting the number of students admitted to the major. Departments may limit admission to students who earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher in certain introductory courses required by the major, or they may rank students who apply for the major according to their overall GPA and go down the list until the maximum number of openings has been filled.

If you intend to major in a restricted field of study, be sure to keep track of whether you’re meeting the acceptance standards of the major as you continue to complete courses and earn grades. If you’re falling short of the academic standards of the major you hope to enter despite working at your maximum level of effort and regularly using the learning assistance services available on campus, consult with an academic advisor about the possibility of finding an alternative field of study that may be closely related to the restricted major you were hoping to enter.


Use your elective courses to test your interest in subjects that you might major in. As its name implies, “elective” courses are those you elect or choose to take. They come in two forms: free electives and restricted electives. Free electives are any courses you take that count toward your college degree but aren’t required for general education or a major. Restricted electives are courses you must take, but you get to choose them from a restricted list (menu) of possible courses that have been specified by your college that fulfill a requirement in general education or a major. For example, your campus may have a general education requirement in the social or behavioral sciences that stipulates you must take two courses in this field, but you choose what those two courses are from a list of options (e.g., anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, or sociology. If you’re considering one of these fields as a possible major, you can take an introductory course in that subject to test your interest in the subject while simultaneously fulfilling a general-education requirement needed for graduation. This strategy allows you to use general education as the main highway for travel toward your final destination (a college degree) while using your restricted electives to explore side roads (potential majors) along the way. You can use the same strategy with your free electives.


“I took it (Biology) to satisfy the distribution requirement and I ended up majoring in it.”

— Pediatrician (quoted in Brooks, 2009)


Naturally, you don’t have to use all your electives to explore majors. Up to one-third your courses in college may be electives. This leaves you with a significant amount of freedom to shape your college experience in a way that best meets your educational and personal goals. Box 11.2 contains suggestions for making the best use of your free electives.





Box 11.2


Top-Ten Suggestions for Making the Most of Your College Electives


Elective courses give you the academic freedom to take personal control over your coursework. Exercise this freedom responsibly by making strategic selection of electives that allow you to make the most of your college experience and college degree.

Listed below are 10 recommendations for making effective use of your college electives. As you read them, note three strategies that appeal most to you and that you’re most likely to put into practice.


You can make strategic use of your elective to:


  1. Complete a minor or build an area of concentration. Electives can be used to pursue a field of personal interest that complements and strengthens your major. (See p ___ for further details.)


  1. Help you choose a career path. Just as you can use electives to test your interest in a college major, you can use them to test your interest in a career. For instance, you could enroll in:
  • career planning or career development courses; and
  • courses that include internships or service learning experiences in a field you’re considering as a possible career (e.g., health, education, or business).


  1. Strengthen your skills in areas that may appeal to future employers. For instance, courses in foreign language, leadership development, and persuasive communication can develop skills attractive to current employers. (See chapter 2 for skills sought by today’s employers.)


  1. Develop practical life skills. Courses in managing personal finances, marriage and family, or child development can help you manage your money and your family relationships.


  1. Seek balance in your life and develop yourself as a whole person. You can use your electives intentionally to cover all key dimensions of self-development. Electives may be used to promote your emotional development (e.g., stress management), social development (e.g., social psychology), intellectual development (e.g., critical thinking), physical development (e.g., nutrition or self-defense), and spiritual development (e.g., world religions or death and dying).


“I discovered an unknown talent and lifelong stress-reducing hobby.”

—An attorney talking about an elective ceramics course taken in college (quoted in Brooks, 2009)


  1. Make connections between different academic disciplines (subject areas). Interdisciplinary courses are courses designed specifically to integrate two or more academic disciplines. For instance, psychobiology is an interdisciplinary course that integrates the fields of psychology (focusing on the mind) and biology (focusing on the body), enabling you to see how the mind influences the body and vice versa.

         Making connections across subjects and seeing how they can be combined to create a more complete understanding of personal or societal issues can be a stimulating mental experience. Furthermore, the presence of interdisciplinary courses on your college transcript may be attractive to future employers because “real world” work responsibilities and challenges cannot be handled through the lens of a single major; they require the ability to integrate skills acquired from different fields of study (Colby et al., 2011)..


  1. Help you develop broader perspectives on the human condition and the surrounding world. You can intentionally take electives that progressively widen your world perspectives, such courses that take a societal perspective (sociology), a national perspective (political science), an international perspective (world geography), a global perspective (ecology), and a cosmological perspective (astronomy). (See pp. ___ for more detailed information on these broadening perspectives.)


  1. Appreciate different cultural viewpoints and enhance your ability to communicate with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. You could take electives that focus on cultural differences across nations (e.g., international relations) or courses related to cultural differences within America (e.g., race and ethnicity).


  1. Stretch yourself beyond your customary learning style to experience different ways of learning and acquire new skills. You’ll find courses in the college curriculum you’ve never taken before (or even knew existed) that supply you with knowledge and skills you’ve never had a previous opportunity to acquire or develop. These courses will stretch your mind, allow you to explore new ideas and expand your skill set in a way that’s consistent with a key characteristic of successful people—a “growth mindset” (discussed in chapter 3).


  1. Learn something you were always curious about. If you’ve always wondered how members of the other sex think and feel, you could take a course on the psychology of men and women. Or, if you’ve heard about a particular professor who teaches a course that students find especially interesting, take that course and find out why it’s so interesting.


Your college catalog (bulletin) contains descriptions of all courses offered on your campus. Take time to review these course descriptions carefully and explore all the elective options available to you.



Reflection 11.6

What three strategies for selecting electives listed in Box 11.2 are you most likely to implement?

Briefly explain why you chose each of these strategies.


Your elective courses give you the opportunity to shape and create an academic experience that’s uniquely your own. Seize this opportunity to exercise your academic freedom responsibly. Don’t make elective choices randomly or merely on the basis of scheduling convenience (e.g., choosing electives to create a schedule with no early morning or late afternoon classes). Instead, make course selections strategically so that they contribute most to your educational, personal, and professional development.



“Try not to take classes because they fit neatly into your schedule. Start by identifying classes that are most important to you and fit your schedule to accommodate them.”

—Katharine Brooks, author, You Majored in What?


Consider the possibility of completing a college minor in a field that complements your major. A college minor usually requires about half the number of credits (units) required for a major. Most campuses allow you the option of completing a minor along with your major. Check your course catalog or consult with an academic advisor for college minors that may interest you.

If you have a strong interest in two different fields, a minor will allow you to major in one of these fields while minoring in the other. Thus, you’re able to pursue two fields of interest without having to sacrifice one for the other. Another advantage of a minor is that it can usually be completed with a major without delaying your time to graduation. In contrast, a double major is likely to lengthen your time to graduation because it requires completing all requirements for both majors.

Another way to complete a second field of study in addition to your major without increasing your time to graduation is by completing a “concentration” or “cognate area”—an academic specialization that requires fewer courses to complete than a minor (e.g., 4-5 courses vs. 7-8 courses). A concentration area may have even fewer requirements (only 3-4 three courses).

Taking a cluster of courses in a field outside your major can be an effective way to strengthen your resume and your employment prospects by demonstrating your versatility and ability to acquire knowledge and skills in areas that may be missing or underemphasized in your major. For example, by taking a cluster of courses in the fields of mathematics (e.g., statistics), technology (e.g., computer science), and business (e.g., economics), students majoring in the fine arts (e.g., music or theater) or humanities (e.g., English or history) can acquire knowledge and skills in areas not strongly emphasized by their major, thereby increasing their prospects for employment after graduation.



Myths about the Relationship between Majors and Careers


Reflection 11.7

Consider the following statement: “Choosing a major is a life-changing decision because it will determine what you do for the rest of your life.”

Would you agree or disagree?



Numerous misconceptions exist about the relationship between majors and careers, some of which can lead students to make uninformed or unrealistic decisions about a college major. Here are four common myths about the major-career relationship you should be aware of and factor into your decision about a major.


Myth 1. When you choose your major, you’re choosing your career.


While some majors lead directly to a specific career, most do not. Majors leading directly to specialized careers are often called pre-professional or pre-vocational majors; they include such fields as accounting, engineering, and nursing. However, the relationship between most college majors and future careers is often not direct or linear; you don’t travel on a monorail straight from your major to a single career that’s directly connected to your major. For instance, all physics majors don’t become physicists, all philosophy majors don’t become philosophers, all history majors don’t become historians, and all English majors don’t become Englishmen (or Englishwomen). Instead, the same major typically leads you to a variety of career options.


“Linear thinking can keep you from thinking broadly about your options and being open-minded to new opportunities.”

—Katharine Brooks, author, You Majored in What?


The truth is that for most college students the journey from college major to future career(s) is less like scaling a vertical pole and more like climbing a tree. You begin with the tree’s trunk (the foundation provided by general education (the liberal arts); this leads to separate limbs (choices for college majors), which, in turn, leads to different branches (different career paths or options). Note that the different sets of branches (careers) grow from the same limb (major).

Similarly, different career clusters or “career families” grow from the same major. An English major can lead to a variety of careers that involve writing (e.g., editing, journalism, or publishing), and a major in Art can lead to different careers that involve visual media (e.g., illustration, graphic design, or art therapy).

Furthermore, different majors can lead to the same career. For instance, a variety of majors can lead a student to law school and a career as a lawyer; in fact, there’s really no such thing as a “law major” or “pre-law major.” Students with a variety of majors (or minors) can also enter medical school as long as they have a solid set of foundational courses in biology and chemistry and score well on the medical college admissions test.


“I intend on becoming a corporate lawyer. I am an English major. The reason I chose this major is because while I was researching the educational backgrounds of some corporate attorneys, I found that a lot were English majors. It helps with writing and delivering cases.”

—College sophomore


Studies show that today’s workers change jobs 10 times in the two decades following college and the job-changing rate is highest for younger workers (AAC&U, 2007). Research also indicates that only half of new college graduates expect to be working in the same field in which they’re currently employed (Hart Research Associates, 2006); they frequently change positions during their first two decades of employment following college completion, and the further along they proceed in their career path, the more likely they are to be working in a field that’s unrelated to their college major (Millard, 2004).

So, don’t assume that your major is your career, or that your major automatically turns into your lifelong career. It’s this belief that can result in some students procrastinating about choosing a major; they think they’re making a lifelong decision and fear that if they make the “wrong” choice, they’ll be stuck doing something they hate for the rest of their life.   Although it’s important to think about how your choice of a college major will affect your career path, for most college students—particularly those not majoring in pre-professional fields—choice of a major and choice of a career are not identical decisions made at the same time. Choosing a specific major is a decision that should be made by your sophomore year; choosing a career is a decision that can be made later.




“Things like picking majors and careers really scare me a lot! I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life.”

—First-year student


Don’t assume choosing your college major means you’re choosing what you’ll be doing for the remainder of your working life. Deciding on a major and deciding on a career are not identical decisions that must be made simultaneously.


Myth 2. If you want to continue your education after college graduation, you must

             continue in the same field as your college major.


After graduating with a 4-year (baccalaureate) degree, you have two primary paths available to you: (a) enter the workforce immediately, and/or (b) continue your education in graduate school or professional school. Once you earn a college diploma, you can continue your education in a field that’s not directly related to your college major. This is particularly true for students majoring in liberal arts fields that don’t lead directly to a specific career after graduation (Pascarella, 1991, 2005). For example, an English major can go to graduate school in a subject other than English, or go to law school, or get a master’s degree in business administration. In fact, most students who attend graduate school in the field of business (e.g., MBA programs) were not business majors when they were in college (Zlomek, 2012).


“The first week of law school, one of my professors stressed the importance of ‘researching, analyzing and writing.’ I thought this was an interesting thing to say, because English majors learn and practice these skills in every class.”

—English major attending law school


Myth 3. Since most college graduates are employed in business organizations or

              corporations, you should major in business.


Most college graduates are employed in business settings, so students (and their parents) often conclude that if students are going to work for a business, they better major in business. This belief likely explains why business is the most popular major among college students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011). However, college graduates now working in business settings have majored in variety of fields besides business, and many CEOs of today’s most profitable companies did not major in business (Elliot, 2015). Certainly, if you have an interest in and passion for majoring in business, by all means major in business; however, don’t choose a business major because you think it’s the only major that will qualify you to work for and succeed in a business organization after graduation.


Myth 4. If you major in a liberal arts field, the only career available to you is teaching.


A commonly held myth is that all you can do with a major in a liberal arts subject is to teach the subject you majored in (e.g., math majors become math teachers; history majors become history teachers). The truth is that students majoring in different liberal arts fields go on to enter, advance, and prosper in a wide variety of careers. College graduates with degrees in the liberal arts who went on to achieve professional success in careers other than teaching include:

  • Jill Barad (English major), CEO, Mattel Toys
  • Willie Brown (liberal studies major), Mayor of San Francisco
  • Ken Chenault (History major), CEO, American Express
  • Christopher Connor (Sociology major), CEO, Sherwin Williams
  • Robert Iger (Communications major), CEO, Walt Disney Company


Significant numbers of liberal arts majors are also employed in positions relating to marketing, human resources, and public affairs (Bok, 2006; Useem, 1989). Once, an experienced career counselor tracked the majors of college graduates working in the insurance industry. She found an art history major working at a major insurance firm whose job was to value oriental carpets and art holdings. She found a geology major working for an insurance company whose job was to evaluate beach properties and determine the odds of hurricanes or other natural phenomena causing property damage. This former geology major spent much of her work time traveling to beachfront communities to review new developments and assessing damages after hurricanes or other tragic events (Brooks, 2009).

Research also reveals that the career mobility and career advancement of liberal arts majors working in the corporate world are comparable to business majors. For example, liberal arts majors are just as likely to advance to the highest levels of corporate leadership as majors in such pre-professional fields as business and engineering (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). The point we’re making here is that if you have a passion for and talent in a liberal arts field, don’t dismiss it as being “impractical,” and don’t be dismayed or discouraged by those who question your choice by asking: “What are you going to do with a degree in that major?” (Brooks, 2009).


“They asked me during my interview why I was right for the job and I told them because I can read well, write well and I can think. They really liked that because those were the skills they were looking for.”

—English major hired by a public relations firm


Author’s Experience


My brother, Vinny, was a philosophy major in college. He came home one Christmas wearing a tee-shirt on which was printed the message: “Philosophy major. Will think for food.” With his major in philosophy, my brother went to graduate school, completed a Master’s Degree in higher education, and is now making a six-figure salary working as a college administrator. Looking back, his old tee-shirt should have read: “Philosophy major. Will think for money.”

—Joe Cuseo


Reflection 11.8

Look back at the four myths about the relationships between majors and career. Which of these four myths were you aware were false? Which myths did you previously think were true?


Chapter Summary and Highlights


Studies show that the vast majority of students entering college are uncertain about their academic specialization. Most students do not reach a final decision about their major before starting college; typically, they make that decision during their college experience.


As a new student, it’s only natural to be at least somewhat uncertain about your educational goals at the early stages of your college experience because you haven’t experienced the variety of subjects and academic programs that comprise the college curriculum. The general education curriculum will introduce you to new fields of study, some of which you’ve never experienced before and all of which represent possible choices for a college major. A key benefit of experiencing the variety of courses that make up the general education curriculum is that they enable you to become more aware of yourself, and at the same time, enable you to become more aware of the academic fields available to you as potential majors. As you gain experience with the college curriculum, you will gain greater self-insight into your academic interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Take this self-knowledge into consideration when choosing a major to help you choose a field that capitalizes on your personal interests, abilities and talents.


You can use your elective courses strategically to help you explore or confirm your choice of a college major as well as to:

  • Acquire a minor that complements and augments your major
  • Broaden your perspectives on the world around you
  • Become a more balanced, well-rounded person
  • Handle the practical life tasks that face you now and in the future
  • Strengthen your career development and employment prospects after graduation


Compared to high school, higher education allows you a higher degree of freedom of academic choice and a greater opportunity to determine your own educational path. Enjoy this freedom and employ it responsibly to make the most of your college experience and college degree.


In order to make a well-informed choice of a college major, there are several myths you should be aware of:


  • Myth 1. When you choose your major, you’re choosing your career. While some majors lead directly to a specific career, most do not. The relationship between most college majors and careers is not direct or linear. Different career clusters or “career families” can grow from the same major. Furthermore, different majors can lead to the same career.


  • Myth 2. After you graduate with a college degree, any further education you pursue must be in the same field as your college major. College graduates can continue their education in a field that’s not directly related to your college major. This is particularly true for students majoring in liberal arts fields that do not funnel them directly into a specific career after graduation.


  • Myth 3. Since most college graduates work in business settings, you should major business. Students (and their parents) see most college graduates employed in business settings and conclude that if students are going to work for a business, they better major in business. However, the majority of college graduates now working in business settings didn’t major in business when they were in college.


  • Myth 4. If you major in a liberal arts subject, the only career available to you is teaching. The truth is that students majoring in different fields in the liberal arts go on to enter, advance, and prosper in a wide variety of careers. If you have a passion for and talent in a liberal arts field, consider majoring in it; don’t dismiss it as being impractical, and don’t be dismayed or discouraged by those who may question your choice by asking: “What are you going to do with a degree in that major?”



Learning More through the World Wide Web: Internet-Based Resources


For additional information related to educational planning and choosing a major, see the following websites.


Identifying and Choosing College Majors:


Relationships between Majors and Careers:


Careers for Liberal Arts Majors:

Liberal Arts Career Network (

“What can I do with my liberal arts degree?” (



Chapter 11 Exercises


11.1 Quote Reflections

Review the sidebar quotes contained in this chapter and select two that were especially meaningful or inspirational to you.

For each quote, provide a 3-5 sentence explanation why you chose it.


11.2 Reality Bite


Whose Choice Is It Anyway?


Ursula, a first-year student, was in tears when she showed up at the Career Center. She had just returned from a weekend visit home, during which she informed her parents of her plans to major in art or theater. After Ursula’s father heard about her plans, he exploded and insisted that she major in something “practical,” like nursing or accounting, so that she could get a job after graduation. Ursula replied that she had no interest in these majors, nor did she feel she had the skills in science and math required by these majors. Her father shot back that he had no intention of “paying four years of college tuition for her to end up as a starving artist or unemployed actress!” He went on to say that if she wanted to major in art or theater she’d “have to figure out a way to pay for college herself.”

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  1. If Ursula were your friend, what would you suggest she do?


  1. Do you see any way(s) in which Ursula might pursue a major that’s compatible with her

interests and talents, while at the same time, easing her father’s concern that she’ll end up

jobless after college graduation?


  1. Can you relate to this student’s predicament, or know any other students in a similar






  1. Complete the My PEPS Learning Styles Inventory that accompanies this book.
  2. a) Review the results from the report on your preferred modes for learning and working.


  1. b) Do you think that your learning style preferences are a good match for the major or

major(s) you’re considering? If yes, why? If no, why not?


  1. Complete the Do What You Are inventory that provides you with a personality report as

well as a list of suggested majors and careers.

  1. a) How do the suggested majors align with your strengths?


  1. b) Is your current major or the major you are considering on the list? If it is, explain how

the major is a good fit for you. If it’s not on the list, explain why you still think it’s a

good fit or why you think that it is not.





Identify a faculty member on campus in a field you’ve chosen or are considering as a college major. Make an appointment to speak with that faculty member during office hours to learn about that field of study. Let the faculty member know the purpose of your visit. Use the following interview questions, or any other questions you think would help you get to know the faculty member and give you a better understanding of the field.


  1. What initially attracted you to your academic field?


  1. When did you decide to pursue a career in your academic field? Was it your first choice, or

did you change to it from another academic area? (If you changed your original major, why

   did you change?)


  1. What would you say is the most enjoyable, exciting, or stimulating aspect of your field of



  1. Are there any unexpected requirements in your academic field that proved to be

particularly challenging for students?


  1. What careers are related to your academic field? (Or, what types of careers does a major in

your field prepare its students to pursue?)


  1. What particular skills, abilities, or talents do you think are needed for success in your field

of study?


  1. What personality traits or personal interests do you think would “match up” well with the

type of work required in your academic field?


  1. What particular courses or out-of-class experiences would you recommend to help students

decide if your field is a good fit for them?



11.5 Developing a Long-Range Academic Plan for Your Course Work


This exercise is designed to help you design a detailed yet flexible, four-year academic plan. While it may seem a bit overwhelming to develop a long-range plan at this stage of your college experience, you will receive guidance from your course instructor and academic advisor. This is an opportunity to begin customizing your college experience and mapping your educational future. Remember: an educational plan isn’t something set in stone; it can change depending on changes in your academic and career interests. As you create, shape, and follow your plan, consult frequently with your academic advisor.


Overview of Courses Comprising Your Plan


Your trip through the college curriculum will involve taking courses in the following three key categories:


  1. General education courses required of all college graduates regardless of their



  1. Required courses in your chosen major


  1. Elective courses you choose to take from any listed in your college catalog.


What follows are planning directions for each of these types of courses. By building these three sets of courses into your educational plan, you can create a roadmap that guides your future course work. Once you’ve reserved slots for the three key categories of courses you will have a blueprint to direct (not dictate) your educational future. If you later change your mind about a particular course you originally planned to take, you can do so without interfering with your educational progress by substituting another course from the same category. For instance, if your original plan was to take psychology to fulfill a general education requirement in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, but you decide later to take anthropology instead, you have a space reserved in your plan to make the switch.


As you gain more educational experience, your specific academic and career interests are likely to change and so may the specifics of your long-range plan. The purpose of this plan is not to tie you up or pin you down, but supply you with a map to keep you on course and moving in the right direction. Since this is a flexible plan, it’s probably best to complete it in pencil or electronically so you can make future changes to it as needed.


Once you’ve developed your plan, hold onto it, and keep an up-to-date copy of it throughout your time in college. Bring it with you when you meet with advisors and career development specialists, and come prepared to discuss your progress on the plan as well as any changes you’d like to make to your plan.



Part A. Planning for General Education


Step 1. Use your course catalog (bulletin) to identify the general education requirements for graduation. You’re likely to find these requirements organized into general divisions of knowledge (Humanities, Natural Sciences, etc.). Within each of these divisions, courses will be listed that you can take to fulfill the general education requirement(s) for that particular division. (Course catalogs can sometimes be tricky to navigate or interpret; if you run into any difficulty, seek help from your course instructor or an academic advisor.) You’ll probably be able to choose courses from a list of different options. Use your freedom of choice to choose general education courses whose descriptions capture your curiosity and contribute to your personal development and career plans. You can use general education courses not only to fulfill general education requirements, but also to test your interest and talent in different fields—one of which may end up becoming your major (or minor).


Step 2. Select courses in the catalog that you plan to take to fulfill your general education requirements and list them on the following form. Some courses you’re taking this term may be fulfilling general education requirements, so be sure to list them on this planning form.


Planning Grid for General Education Courses


Course Title                                   Units             Course Title                                 Units

________________________         ___                _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___                _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

Total Number of Units Required for General Education = ____


Part B. Planning for a College Major


The point of this portion of your educational plan is not to force you to commit to a major right now, but to develop a flexible plan that will allow you to reach a well-informed decision about your major. If you have already chosen a major, this exercise will help you lay out exactly what’s ahead of you and confirm whether the course work required by your major is what you expected and if it “fits” well with your interests and talents.


Step 1. Go to your college catalog and locate the major you’ve chosen or you are considering. If you’re completely undecided, select a field that you might consider as a possibility. To help you identify possible majors, peruse your catalog or go online and answer the questions at

Another way to go about this is to first identify a career you might be interested in and work backwards to find a major that leads to this career. If you would like to use this strategy, the following website will guide you through the process:


Step 2. After you’ve selected a major, consult your college catalog to identify the courses required for that major. Your campus may also have “major planning sheets” that list the specific course requirements for each major. (To see if these major-planning sheets are available, check with the Advising Center or the academic department that offers the major you’ve selected.)

A college major will require all students majoring in that field to complete specific courses. For instance, all business majors are required to take microeconomics. Other courses required for a major may be chosen from a menu or list of options (e.g., “choose any three courses from the following list of six courses”). Such courses are often called “major electives.” For these major electives, read their course descriptions carefully and use your freedom of choice wisely to select courses that interest you and are most relevant to your future plans.


Note: You can “double dip” by taking courses that fulfill a major requirement and a general education at the same time. For instance, if your major is psychology, you may be able to take a course in General or Introductory Psychology that counts simultaneously as a required major course and a required general education course in the area of Social and Behavioral Sciences.


Step 3. Identify courses you plan to take to fulfill your major requirements and electives and list them on the following form. Courses you’re taking this term may be fulfilling requirements in the major you’ve selected, so be sure to list them on this form.



Planning Grid for Courses in Your Major


Course Title                                 Units             Course Title                                Units

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___                _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___


Total Number of Units Required for Your Major = ____


Plan C. Planning Your Free Electives


Now that you’ve built general education courses and major courses into your educational map, you’re well positioned to plan your free electives—courses not required for general education or your major but that are needed to reach the minimum number of units required for a college degree. These are courses you choose freely from any listed in your college catalog.


To determine how many free-elective units you have, add up the number of course units you’re taking to fulfill general education and major requirements, then subtract this number from the total number of units you need to graduate. The number of course units remaining represents your total number of free electives. (See information in the chapter for strategies on choosing electives.)



Planning Grid for Your Free Electives


Course Title                                 Units             Course Title                                Units

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________        ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___

________________________         ___               _________________________       ___


Total Number of Free Elective Units = ____


Part D. Putting It Altogether: Developing a Comprehensive Graduation Plan


In the previous three sections, you built three key sets of college courses: general education courses, major courses, and free-elective courses into your plan. Now you’re positioned to tie these three sets of courses together and create a comprehensive graduation plan.

Using the “Long-Range Graduation Planning Form”, enter the courses you selected to fulfill general education requirements, major requirements, and free electives. In the space provided next to each course, use the following shorthand notations to designate its category:

GE = general education course

M = major course

E = elective course



  1. If there are courses in your plan that fulfill two or more categories at the same time (e.g., a general education requirement and a major requirement), note both categories.


  1. To complete a college degree in four years (approximately 120 units), you should plan to complete about 30 course credits each academic year. Keep in mind that you can take college courses in the summer as well as the fall and spring.


Unlike high school, taking summer courses while you’re in college doesn’t mean you’ve fallen behind or need to retake a course you failed during the “normal” school year (fall and spring terms). Instead, summer term can be used to get ahead and reduce your time to graduation. Adopt the mindset that summer term is a regular part of the college academic year; use it strategically to keep you on track to complete your degree in a timely fashion.


  1. Keep in mind that the number associated with a course indicates the year in the college experience when the course is usually taken. Courses numbered in the 100s (or below) are typically taken in the first year of college, 200-numbered courses in the sophomore year, 300-numbered courses in the junior year, and 400-numbered courses in the senior year.


  1. If you haven’t decided on a major, a good strategy is to focus on completing general education requirements during your first year of college. This first-year strategy will open more slots in your course schedule during your sophomore year—by that time, you may have a better idea of what you’ll major in, so you can fill these open slots with courses required for the major you’ve chosen. (This first-year strategy will also allow you to use general education courses in different subjects to test your interest in majoring in one of those subjects.)


  1. Be sure to check whether the course you’re planning to take has any prerequisites—courses that need to be completed before you can enroll in that course. For example, before you can enroll in literature course, you may need to complete at least one prerequisite course in writing or English composition.


  1. Your campus may have a degree-audit program that allows you to electronically track the courses you’ve completed and the courses remaining to complete a degree in your chosen major. If such a program is available, take advantage of it.


  1. You’re not locked into taking all your courses in the exact terms you originally placed them in your plan. You can trade times (terms) if it turns out that the course isn’t offered during the term you were planning to take it, or if it’s offered at a time that conflicts with another course in your schedule.


  1. Keep in mind that not all college courses are offered every term, every year. Typically, college catalogs do not contain information about when courses will be scheduled. If you’re unsure when a course will be offered, check with an academic advisor. Some colleges develop a projected plan of scheduled courses that shows what academic term(s) courses will be offered for the next few years. If such a projected schedule of courses is available, take advantage of it. It will enable you to develop an educational plan that not only includes what courses you will take, but also when you will take them.



Long-Range Graduation Planning Form




Fall Term


Course Title                                       Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________              _______________                       ___

____________________________              _______________                           ___

____________________________             _______________                      ___

____________________________              _______________                        ___

____________________________               _______________                        ___

                                                                                      Total Units = ___


Spring Term


Course Title                                          Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________             _______________                           ___

____________________________              _______________                           ___

____________________________               _______________                           ___

                                                                                       Total Units = ___


Summer Term


Course Title                                         Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________              _______________                             ___

                                                                                      Total Units = ___

             SOPHOMORE YEAR

             Fall Term


Course Title                                          Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________             _______________                           ___

____________________________              _______________                           ___

____________________________               _______________                           ___

                                                                                       Total Units = ___



Spring Term


Course Title                                         Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________              _______________                             ___

____________________________             _______________                            ___

____________________________              _______________                           ___

____________________________               _______________                           ___

                                                                                      Total Units = ___



Summer Term


Course Title                                          Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________              _______________                             ___

                                                                                       Total Units = ___



             JUNIOR YEAR

Fall Term


Course Title                                         Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________              _______________                             ___

____________________________             _______________                           ___

____________________________              _______________                           ___

____________________________               _______________                           ___

                                                                                      Total Units = ___



             Spring Term


Course Title                                          Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________              _______________                             ___

____________________________             _______________                           ___

____________________________              _______________                           ___

____________________________              _______________                           ___

                                                                                       Total Units = ___



Summer Term


Course Title                                         Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________              _______________                             ___

                                                                                       Total Units = ___




Fall Term


Course Title                                          Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________              _______________                             ___

____________________________             _______________                           ___

____________________________              _______________                           ___

____________________________               _______________                           ___

                                                                                       Total Units = ___



Spring Term


Course Title                                         Course Type                           Course Units

General Ed. (GE), Major (M), Elective (E)

____________________________               _______________                             ___

____________________________              _______________                             ___

____________________________             _______________                            ___

____________________________              _______________                           ___

____________________________               _______________                           ___

                                                                                      Total Units = ___



Reflection Questions:


  1. What is the total number of credits in your graduation plan? Does it equal or exceed the

total number of credits needed to graduate from your college or university?


  1. How many credits will you be taking in the following areas?


  1. a) General Education =


  1. b) Major =


  1. c) Free Electives =


  1. Look over the course required for the major you selected:


  1. a) Are there required courses you were surprised to see or didn’t expect would be required?


  1. b) Are you still interested in majoring in this field?


  1. c) How likely is it that you will change the major you selected?


  1. d) If you were to change your major, what would “Plan B” likely be?


  1. Did completing this long-range graduation plan help you clarify your educational goals?

Why or why not?



11.6 Developing a Co-Curricular Plan for Learning Experiences Outside

the Classroom


Now that you’ve completed a curricular plan for your course work, let’s turn to devising a plan for the second key component of a college education: experiential learning—learning from “hands-on” experiences outside the classroom—either on campus (e.g., leadership positions) or off campus (e.g., service experiences, internships, or employment). Learning opportunities available to you beyond the curriculum are known collectively as the co-curriculum. Co-curricular experiences complement your course work, enhance the quality of your education, and increase your employability. Keep in mind that co-curricular experiences are also resume-building experiences.


Ideally, by the time you graduate, you should have co-curricular experiences in each of the following areas:


  • Volunteer experience or community service that demonstrates social responsibility and allows you to gain “real world” experience


  • Leadership and mentoring skills—for example, participating in leadership retreats, student government, peer mentoring, or serving as a student representative on college committees


  • Internships or work experiences in a field related to your major or career goals


  • Interacting and collaborating with members of diverse racial and cultural groups—for example, participating in multicultural clubs, organizations, or retreats


  • Study-abroad or study-travel experiences that allow you to acquire international knowledge and a global perspective


Step 1. Consult your Student Handbook or check with professionals working in the offices of Student Life (Student Development) and Career Development to locate co-curricular experiences in each of the above areas.


Step 2. Identify one campus program or opportunity in each of these areas that interests you and note it on the planning form below.


Planning Grid for Co-Curricular Experiences


Volunteer Experience/Community Service: _________________________

Leadership/Mentoring:  _________________________

Diversity (Multicultural) Experience: _________________________

Study-Abroad (International) Experience: _________________________

Internship or Work Experience Relating to Your Major or Career Goals: ________________




* Summer term is an excellent time of the year to build experiential learning into your educational plan without having to worry about conflicts with your scheduled classes or trying to do it while simultaneously handling all the academic work associated with a full load of courses.


* Keep track of the specific skills you develop while engaging in co-curricular experiences, and be sure to showcase them to future employers. Don’t just accumulate extracurricular activities to list on your resume, reflect on your experiences and articulate what you learned from them. Identify the thinking processes you used (see Chapter 8) as well as the transferable skills and personal qualities you developed while engaging in these experiences (see Chapter, 12).


* Keep in mind that the professionals with whom you interact while participating in co-curricular experiences can serve as valuable references and sources of letters of recommendation to future employers, graduate schools, and professional schools. (For strategies on requesting letters of recommendation, see Chapter 12).



Reflection Questions:


  1. What challenges or obstacles do you think might interfere with your ability to complete

this co-curricular plan? What campus resources might help you deal with these challenges

or obstacles?


  1. What people on or off campus could you network with to help you successfully navigate

your co-curricular plan?


  1. As you pursue your plans for experiential learning outside the classroom, who might be a

mentor for you, or serve as a personal source of inspiration and motivation?



Final Reminder: Hold onto your curricular and co-curricular plans. Keep an up-to-date copy of them throughout your years in college. Bring these plans with you when you meet with your academic advisor and career development specialists, and come prepared to discuss your progress on these plans as well as any changes in your plans.



AAC&U (Association of American Colleges and Universities) (2007). College learning for the new global century. A report from the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education & America’s Promise. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Bean, J. C. (2001). Engaging ideas: The professor’s guide to integrating writing, critical thinking and active learning in the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Biglan, A. (1973). The characteristics of subject matter in different academic areas. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57, 195–203.

Bodanovich, S. J., Wallace, J. C., & Kass, S. J. (2005). A confirmatory approach to the factor structure of the Boredom Proneness Scale: evidence for a two-factor short form. Journal of Personality Assessment, 85(3), 295-303.

Bok, D. (2006). Our underachieving colleges. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Brooks, K. (2009). You majored in what? Mapping your path from chaos to career. NY: Penguin.

Claxton, C. S., & Murrell, P. H. (1987). Learning styles: Implications for improving practice. ASHE-ERIC Educational Report No. 4. Washington, DC: Association for the Study of Higher Education.

Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Sullivan, W. M., & Dolle, J. R. (2011). Rethinking undergraduate business education: Liberal learning for the profession. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Dunn, R., Dunn, K., & Price, G. (1990). Learning style inventory. Lawrence, KS: Price Systems.

Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (2006) Changing Minds. The art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. Boston MA.: Harvard Business School Press.

Gordon, V. N., & Steele, G. E. (2003). Undecided first-year students: A 25-year longitudinal study. Journal of the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, 15(1), 19–38.

Hendry, G., Heinrich, Lyon, P., Barratt, A. L.Simpson, J. M.Hyde, S. J.Gonsalkorale, S.Hyde, M., & Mgaieth, S. (2005). Helping students understand their learning styles: Effects on study self-efficacy, preference for group work, and group climate. Journal of Educational Psychology, 25(4), 395-407.

HERI (Higher Education Research Institute) (2014). Your first college year survey 2014. Los Angeles, CA: Cooperative Institutional Research Program, University of California-Los Angeles.

Kolb, D. A. (1976). Management and learning process. California Management Review, 18(3), 21–31.

Kolb, D. A. (1985). Learning styles inventory. Boston: McBer.

Leuwerke, W. C., Robbins, S. B., Sawyer, R., & Hovland, M. (2004). Predicting engineering major status from mathematics achievement and interest congruence. Journal of Career Assessment, 12, 135–149.


Millard, B. (2004, November 7). A purpose-based approach to navigating college transitions.

Preconference workshop presented at the Eleventh National Conference on Students in

Transition, Nashville, Tennessee.

Pascarella, E., & Terenzini, P. (1991). How college affects students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pascarella, E., & Terenzini, P. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Peter D. Hart Research Associates. (2006). How should colleges prepare students to succeed in today’s global economy? Based on surveys among employers and recent college graduates. conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Washington, DC: Author.

Schommer-Aikins, M., Duell, O. K., & Barker, S. (2003). Epistemological beliefs across

domains using Biglan’s classification of academic disciplines. Research in Higher

     Education, 44(3), 347-366.

Svinicki, M. D. (2004). Learning and motivation in the postsecondary classroom. Bolton, MA: Anker.

Svinicki, M. D., & Dixon, N. M. (1987). The Kolb model modified for classroom activities. College Teaching, 35(4), 141–146.

Useem, M. (1989). Liberal education and the corporation: The hiring and advancement of college graduates. Piscataway, NJ: Aldine Transaction.

Zlomek, E. (2012, March 26). As MBA applicants, business majors face an uphill battle. BloomburgBusiness. Retrieved from


3 to 4 million marched in the Women’s Marches on January 21

See Just How Big Over 200 Women’s Marches Were All Across the Country

See Just How Big Over 200 Women’s Marches Were All Across the Country
David Johnson•Jan. 23, 2017
Between 3.3 and 4.6 million people marched across the U.S.

By any measure, millions of people participated in the women’s marches that took place across the country and around the world on Saturday in opposition to President Donald Trump. Exactly how many millions is difficult to pin down since large crowds are notoriously tough to count, but a pair of researchers place the figure at at least 3.3 million just in the U.S., based on hundreds of news reports and Facebook data.

Or maybe it was 4.6 million. Jeremy Pressman of the University of Connecticut and Erica Chenoweth of the University of Denver gathered both the lowest and highest estimates for 503 U.S. cities and came up with a range for each city.

Of those 503 cities, Pressman and Chenoweth estimate that at least 1,000 people showed up in 207. The following visualization shows how large the protests are estimated to be in each of those cities, while the total counts include remaining smaller protests as well.

Size of Women’s Marches Across the U.S.

Nationwide Estimate

3,336,865 to 4,633,725

women’s march on Chico, CA, photos

370 sister marches on every continent, 3 million people. See photos.

1,000 more buses required for the women’s march than the inauguration

“An outpouring of democracy like I’ve never seen in my long life.” Gloria Steinem

The DC march asked that everyone write postcards to their elected officials, the first of 10 actions during the 100 days of the new administration. Michael Moore lists the 10 on his FB page.

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Davis and Kimball help organize Women’s March on Chico

Women’s March in Chico will mirror those in Sacramento, Washington

By Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record

Posted: 01/19/17

1 Comment

On the day of the event, see live videos and a live blog at and

Chico >> People in Butte County will be piling into buses this week and heading out in caravans for the women’s marches in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento.

Even more will be packing a rain parka and heading to the Women’s March in downtown Chico.

The local event will include a gathering in City Plaza at 10 a.m., followed by a march through the downtown area starting at 10:30 a.m. About 30 speakers will begin at noon back at the plaza.

“We have a lineup of incredible women from diverse backgrounds,” said one of the event’s organizers, Tracy Davis. The commonality is that all felt “threatened and alienated,” Davis said.

The march is “in response to the rhetoric and dehumanization and threats that so many have felt from this last election cycle,” Davis said. “Women, women of color, the disabled, immigrants, were threatened and abused. This is a response from women across the nation.

“We won’t stand for this.”

The marches tie in with inauguration day for Donald Trump, who will be sworn in as the 45th American president Friday.

Equally motivated to hold a gathering timed to the inauguration was Gayle Kimball, who sought a permit for Saturday in City Plaza. When she found out Davis had reserved the city’s gathering spot, she joined Davis as a co-organizer.

“Two days after Trump won in the electoral college I felt viscerally sick,” Kimball said.

She said the silver lining was that people were organizing and the election might “compel a lot of activism,” Kimball said.

She worked at Chico State University in the past and connected with people who work in gender and sexual equality issues. Others in the community who want to have a voice include people who work in reproductive health issues, she continued.

The march is called the “Women’s March,” but its about all people, both women stressed.

“I think the main goal is to unify people around the country in confirming we are committed to all the things Trump has attacked,” Kimball said. “It’s a statement of unity. Also a goal is to let people know there is a broad support for progressive goals and values, and not to be discouraged.”

She urged people to read “Indivisible,” written by former congressional staffers as a “practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda,” The 26-page document urges people to work together and to communicate with their members of Congress, Kimball said.


“It’s important to support people who will be marginalized and harmed by the new administration’s policies,” she said.

For Kimball, one of her strong concerns is for the planet as a whole. Some of the policies she foresees coming from the nation’s capitol “would be disastrous” for the earth.

The march is just the beginning, she said. What is needed is a “coalition that is vigilant about proposed legislation that will harm people.”

Kimball also urged people to get connected with Norcal Progressives for the 99% on Facebook, join a cause, join a group, make a difference.

She said people are already upset and motivated. Bringing people together will help people who feel “isolated and marginalized.”

Saturday’s forecast calls for rain. The march will proceed in the rain and churches downtown have granted use of their facilities if the weather forces the speakers indoors, she said.

Meanwhile, many from the area are heading off to the state or national capital. Mary Wallmark, program director for Student Life and Leadership at Chico State, said a non-state-funded group of more than 100 local residents will head to Sacramento. She personally knows of at least a dozen people who are going to the march in Washington.

Looking at the promotion of these events, Wallmark said they have “evolved to be inclusive” and focus on issues that impact all people, not just women.

Donations for the local women’s march can be made through the North Valley Community Foundation (NVCF),

The NVCF provides umbrella nonprofit status to a variety of groups throughout the community. President Alexa Benson-Valavanis said her group doesn’t weigh in on individual causes, but encourages activism in general.

“I’ve been hearing from a lot of colleagues and clients,” who want to start new groups. Many people don’t realize “they can just walk in our doors and talk about what they want to do in the world and we can get behind them,” she said.

The community foundation structure can help “so they can do something about those feelings, whether optimistic or scared.”

Coping with dyslexia, ADHD, and anxiety

Margaret, 23, tells how she thrived with her challenges:

I have dyslexia, ADHD, and anxiety. I had a really difficult time finding the right medication and for a long time, I simply felt stupid. I couldn’t retain information in class or when I was studying. It was incredibly frustrating growing up and feeling as if I couldn’t be successful, not matter how hard I tried. I had to develop skills to cope with my lack of focus. When I finally found a medication that worked for me and had developed the beginning of what would become my meditation, mindfulness, and yoga practices, it was if everything fell into place.

I really excelled in college. I graduated Cum Laude, was a member of the English Honor Society, was the editor-in-chief of Colonnades Literary and Arts and the president of the meditation society. I

I rewrote all my notes from class, I often recorded lectures. I studied a lot and meditated and ran often as a way to maintain focus. I realized half way through college that I worked best in the mornings and while sometimes I work well late at night I have the most energy to combat the ADHD at the start of the day. I developed a morning routine and started spacing out my assignments. Some of my anxiety centers around starting and finishing tasks. I love to run and practice yoga so I found ways to incorporate those practices into my day. For instance, on a stressful day, I would bike home around lunch, go for a run, bike back to school, and eat before my next class. I found it was really helpful to hit the reset button whenever I could to help myself refocus instead of being afraid to take a break because I might lose my train of thought. It is as much about self-discipline as it is about believing you are capable. You cannot have one without the other.

As a recent college graduate, and having relocated across the country, I am finding that one must retain these skills and practices outside of the classroom to continue to be successful and also keep from burning out, or stopping productivity altogether. These skills are as important in an academic environment as they are in the post-graduate world.”

A student’s advice about getting into and financing college

Kevin Assam

Packaging Yourself

Being a jack of all trades typically will not cut it. Applicants should demonstrate strength in a few cores areas whether that entails athletics, social entrepreneurship, or even journalism. Think of yourself as a star. You have 5-6 sharp peaks showing a certain level of achievement within those fields. I reckon that many admissions readers will try to feel out how an applicant can be a “high impact” student on campus and so being able to ascertain what areas they will be most effective in will be useful.


We all dread these. For those of us who aren’t accustomed to writing personal entries we will find this particularly hard. No matter your skill level, you do not want to write in a bubble. Feedback on your essays and supplements is key. You can go the inexpensive route of seeking insight from a relevant teacher at school, college students who have had past success, or even pulling up examples online of great essays that can communicate the level of intimacy needed to be achieved. While we all focus on the actual content, do not let good grammar slip by. Admissions readers are not going to penalize you for a couple of spelling errors or wrong tenses. However, if these mistakes become frequent enough, it will look like you never bothered to revise your writings.

Additionally, you want to start working on these as early in the process as possible. Prompts are usually released in advance of the actual launch of applications. Take advantage of this lead time and start chipping away at that first draft. Even a bad draft at least gives you something to work with and is always better than nothing.

Choosing an Essay Topic

It’s typically bad advice to steer anyone away from one particular topic. After all, only you will be able to ascertain what moments of your life are worth illustrating and are capable of captivating a reader. However, there are certain topics that have been written about so often, that unless your writing skills are above average, they will diminish the originality of your essays. We get it. That mission trip or parents’ divorce was life altering. But does it really help your chances if literally thousands of others are writing about the exact same topic in an almost identical structure? Go for broke. Let one draft have your “safe” and more “comfortable” subject of choice. Have another that’s a bit more zany and unexpected. Then choose the one that you feel better communicates who you are as a candidate. One more draft will not be the end of you.

Provide Explanations

If there was a sudden dip in your junior year grades, explain why. If you have a disciplinary infraction, state your side of the story. If you suddenly dropped advanced courses in place of general ones, elaborate on the fact that you were confident enough to identify what you were and were not capable of realistically achieving. There is typically space provided for such information, for example in the Common Application’s Additional Information section. Alternatively, you can have your school counselor provide supplementary information. The point is to control the narrative and leave little guesswork for the admissions office. Get ahead of any possible setbacks and present a strong argument as to either why this should not be treated as a serious drawback or how you were able to learn from that experience going forward. A justification from you is much better than an inference drawn in all of fifteen minutes from an admissions reader.


This is easily the most challenging part of the process. How do you find external sources of funding? You will typically encounter two of the most accessible types: government and university. Government funds may come from your own domestic administration or the coffers of a foreign territory. The latter are usually more limited in terms of the specific programs and locations that will be funded but tend to start from a base that covers roughly half of all living and tuition costs and upwards to the level of a full ride. If you’re willing to compile all the disparate deadlines and national policies as well as searching beyond the North American community, then this can be a good fit. Keep in mind; these tend to run the gamut of being either massively publicized or relatively obscure. Understandably, the level of competition will shift too suit and you will need to have excellent researching abilities.

Meanwhile, university funding can be further broken down to merit scholarships and need-based aid. The former tend to cover part of tuition and usually involve additional essays and interviews. Because they are specific to the individual achievements of an applicant they are highly competitive but tend to have all the relevant information laid out nicely on one web page. Need-based aid however will typically require complex and frustrating financial aid forms that can be very daunting to international students given how wildly our tax filing systems vary. But they are worth the hassle. Adhering to the tight deadlines and nuanced forms, will allow the financial aid department of schools to offer you additional funding based on your level of income, savings, debt etc. Ideally, you’re looking for a school that guarantees meeting all need-based aid upon admission to the university, which usually puts you on the hook for just personal expenses. As usual, being an international applicant means that there is going to be a lot of competition for these limited funds. In fact, given how expensively international students can be priced, you can bet that if a school can meet all of your aid it is going to be a highly competitive process.

New book on school success and stress reduction

Your Mindful Guide to Academic Success: Beat Burnout

Gayle Kimball, Ph.D. ISBN 978-0-938795-52-0

Available on ebook platforms like Amazon soon for $9.990001

The nine chapters provide information for high school and college students about how to achieve academic goals and reduce stress:

How to identify your learning styles

Techniques to achieve your goals

Study skills and effective test taking

How to write research papers

Stress reduction

Understand mind power

Clearing emotional blocks to success

Physical vitality

Student activism and goals internationally

Student experiences are featured, along with a variety of experts, and they created the illustrations.


Traveling around the world, interviewing young people for my series of books about global youth viewpoints and activism, I heard how much time, worry and anxiety goes into studying for tests. I have a lot of experience studying and test-taking to earn my bachelor’s degree, teaching credential, two Masters Degrees, and Ph.D.—all from the University of California. I’ve corrected thousands of student essays teaching in high school and then in university for decades. I want to share with students what I’ve learned about how to succeed academically, stay centered and have time to enjoy life. I include the advice and experience of young people from various countries to discover how they succeed and to provide insight into the global youth culture in an increasingly globalized world. As a Pakistani young man said in this book, “It lets the students know that their worries/guilt are uniform and students from other regions are facing the same problems.” Although it’s rare, I advocate that the voices of actual young people should be included in books about and for them


Table of Contents    

Chapter 1 How to Achieve Your Goals with Metacognition

Understanding Your Learning Styles

Making Your Brain Work for You

Coping with Learning Disabilities

Identifying Your Personality Types


Chapter 2 Study Skills

Reading, Note Taking, Memorizing, Study Groups

Test Taking Skills suggestions by Dr. Stephen Tchudi

Effective Oral Reports

Overcoming Math Anxiety

Time Management vs. Procrastination


Chapter 3 How to do Research by Morgan Brynnan, MLIS

Information Literacy

Is it all CRAAP – Evaluating Sources

Research Basics

Plagiarism, Ethics and Citation


Chapter 4 Coping with Stress

The Physiology and Causes of Stress

How to Cope with Stress


Balance the Left and Right Sides of the Body


Chapter 5 Understand Mind Power

Research on Mind Over Matter

Positive Self-Talk

How to Clear Emotional Blocks


Chapter 6 Emotional Issues that influence School Success

The Power of the Unconscious Mind


Being a Student of Color in a PWI



Anxiety and Depression




Chapter 7 Physical Vitality

Healthy Food

Prevent Eyestrain


Increase Energy

Enough Sleep


Chapter 8 Getting into College, Career Planning

Getting Into College

Adjusting to College

Post-College Career Planning


Chapter 9 Student Activism in the US and International Education Reform

What Students Want from their Education

The Finish Model

Student Educational Activism

Youth Activism in the US


Fair Use and Copyright by Morgan Brynnan

Fair use and copyright

Fair use and copyright are the most complex issues in publishing and writing, and there are no pat answers I can provide, or rules you can just follow easily. Copyright decisions are based on case law; that is, a lawsuit has taken place and a judge has made a decision in favor of the copyright holder or the person who distributed, reproduced or modified the original work.

As this book is written for students, the author is not addressing copyright or fair use as it applies to commercial and non-commercial publications, or use by instructors. We will only address US copyright here and fair use as it may impact you in writing a paper or creating a presentation for a class. Anything higher than that, and you definitely need to speak with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property rights.

As mentioned previously, copyright exists once an original idea, image, words, recording, etc. are set down. You don’t have to pay a fee to the government to claim copyright (though it certainly helps to register your copyrighted work if you wind up in court).

There is an excellent resource called Circular 1: Copyright Basics from the US Government (2012) which you should be familiar with before using anyone else’s original work. Circular 1: Copyright Basics outlines the rights of the copyright holder (the creator of the original work) as follows:


A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation… (5)


Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
  • prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural

works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other

audiovisual work

  • perform the work publicly (in the case of sound recordings*) by means of a digital audio transmission (1)[i]


According to Steve Schlackman in Art Law Journal, copyright currently exists from the “‘life of the author plus 70 years,’ and extends copyrights for corporate works to 95 years from the year of first publication, or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first.”[ii]

After that, original works move into the public domain and are not subject to copyright law (as of this writing). You’ll still want to cite the source of your public domain resources.

Creative Commons licensing was a direct response to the restrictions of copyright, where creators of original works wanted others to freely redistribute their work or sometimes allow it to be re-used with modification. Creative Commons sources are a good first choice for media, provided that the licensor actually held the rights to distribute in the first place. For more on Creative Commons licensing, see

So, how is it possible to use a part of a copyrighted work in a school project? That’s where something called Fair Use comes in: “Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses — such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research — as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.” (US Government 2017)[iii]

Fair Use, is even more complex than copyright, and is decided on case law, that is, on a case-by-case basis. It changes so frequently that there is an index of cases online for it on I’m no lawyer, so I’ll let the US Copyright Office speak for itself on the four factors of Fair Use:


Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes: Courts look at how the party claiming fair use is using the copyrighted work, and are more likely to find that nonprofit educational and noncommercial uses are fair. This does not mean, however, that all nonprofit education and noncommercial uses are fair and all commercial uses are not fair; instead, courts will balance the purpose and character of the use against the other factors below. Additionally, “transformative” uses are more likely to be considered fair. Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.


Nature of the copyrighted work: This factor analyzes the degree to which the work that was used relates to copyright’s purpose of encouraging creative expression. Thus, using a more creative or imaginative work (such as a novel, movie, or song) is less likely to support a claim of a fair use than using a factual work (such as a technical article or news item). In addition, use of an unpublished work is less likely to be considered fair.


Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole: Under this factor, courts look at both the quantity and quality of the copyrighted material that was used. If the use includes a large portion of the copyrighted work, fair use is less likely to be found; if the use employs only a small amount of copyrighted material, fair use is more likely. That said, some courts have found use of an entire work to be fair under certain circumstances. And in other contexts, using even a small amount of a copyrighted work was determined not to be fair because the selection was an important part—or the “heart”—of the work.


Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work: Here, courts review whether, and to what extent, the unlicensed use harms the existing or future market for the copyright owner’s original work. In assessing this factor, courts consider whether the use is hurting the current market for the original work (for example, by displacing sales of the original) and/or whether the use could cause substantial harm if it were to become widespread.

(US Government 2017) [iv]


Michael Brewer and the ALA Office for Information Technology have created a Fair Use Evaluator to document for yourself why you think something is fair use of another’s original work. It’s not legal advice and is well worth a look for teachers, writers, and creators, as well as students. Find it at:

[i] U.S. Government. “Circular 1: Copyright Basics.” United States Copyright Office. May 2012. (accessed January 1, 2017).

[ii] Schlackman, Steve. “How Mickey Mouse Keeps Changing Copyright Law.” Art Law Journal. February 15, 2014. (accessed January 13, 2017).

[iii] US Government. “More Information on Fair Use.” January 2017. (accessed January 15, 2017).

[iv] ibid