Finding one’s path is not an easy endeavor in any walk of life, especially in regards to higher education. Students starting their first year of college may feel any number of emotions, ranging from excitement to anxiety to utter confusion.
The prospect of selecting a suitable major is surely the root of most uncertainty for many new students who are still unsure of what career path they wish to take.
It’s a delicate balancing act to choose a major that will be both financially lucrative and personally fulfilling.
Sam Willis, elementary education senior, understands this sentiment well.
Originally a computer engineering student studying at the University of Louisville, Willis eventually realized that his interests lay elsewhere, so he opted to come to IU Southeast and major in computer science and informatics instead.
It took another several years and the recurring influence of his wife, Jenilyn, who graduated from IU Southeast with a degree in elementary education in May 2013, for him to realize that he might truly be happier with a vastly different major: elementary education.
“It was pretty soon after switching that I realized it was what I liked doing,” Willis said. “Especially after seeing Jenilyn doing it and liking it so much.”
Willis says that when he switched majors to elementary education, it was the guidance and assistance of his academic advisor, Janie Spitznagel, that helped orient him and reassure him that he had indeed made the right choice.
“She was really helpful,” Willis says of Spitznagel. “She helped me find what classes I needed and set myself up for my new major and my future in general.”
Willis expects to graduate in December. He has grown quite fond of the School of Education during his time at IU Southeast, and he said he enjoys the sense of community it provides.
“I definitely feel like the [School of Education] is a community,” he said. “I know pretty much all of the teachers, and I’ve been with the same group of people for at least three or four semesters now. It’s a great support system.”
Other students navigate through the tumultuous selection of majors via other means.
Andrew Dangler, advertising senior, originally came to IU Southeast to study international business but decided to follow another path after being put off by certain requirements for the major, particularly in regards to mathematics.
However, advertising was a natural second choice for Dangler.
“I have always had an interest in advertising,” he said. “So when I decided not to pursue international business like I had initially planned, advertising was just a natural fallback.”
Dangler also says he feels confident that the advertising track at IU Southeast has sufficiently prepared him for his future, whatever it may hold, and hesaid he feels lucky to have formed the communal bonds and friendships that he has while studying in his advertising classes.
“I feel like I’m part of a community. Definitely,” he said. “I know everyone. I feel comfortable with everyone. It really is just a small, caring community, and I don’t think you get that sort of intimacy at bigger schools. It really helps reassure you that you’re doing the right thing.”
Though many students do have some amount of trouble deciding their major right from the start, there are others who come to college with their path already cemented in mind.
Nikki Pulfer, a sophomore majoring in women’s and gender studies, is very confident in her selection.
“It was something that I experienced in my personal life and something that I’ve long been interested in, so I thought I would like to apply it wherever I worked,” Pulfer says.
“My initial plan was to get most of my general education classes out of the way before I figured out what I wanted, but this just feels right.”
However, she says she might eventually pursue a minor or even a double major as well, and she’s particularly interested in business.
“The degrees would complement one another, but at the same time, they’re diverse enough that you can just fall back on one if the other doesn’t work out.”
Despite her confidence that she has selected the right major for her, she is still unsure what the long-term future holds for her – and she is quite alright with that.
“I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my degree yet, but I know what I’m interested in and what I want to work towards,” she said. “Especially since I’ll be getting another degree, I feel like I’ll be really versatile and able to find a good job. I know that no matter what I’m going to pick for my second major, it will be something that I can apply anywhere. I feel good about it.”
It’s clear that if there’s one readily apparent common bond between these three separate students, it’s the fact that they’ve found a tight-knit, supportive community within their respective areas of study at IU Southeast, even if it took them some time to find out what that particular area of study was.
For many individuals, regardless of their age, college is simply the required next phase in their life-long task of finding their path.
Just as important as the lessons learned are the connections and friendships made, for these can be the true catalysts for new or undecided students who are unsure about their future careers.
“I love IUS. I love the community. I love the professors. I feel like my life is enriched, and I love it,” Pulfer said without hesitation. “I don’t feel stressed at all about not knowing exactly what my career’s going to be like because I know I’ve got the support of the professors and the people around me. I’m learning so much.”