Majors fair to help students determine career plans

GVL / Robert Mathews 
Students visiting booths for the Non-Profit Volunteer and Internship Fair that took place in Henry Hall.

GVL / Robert Mathews Students visiting booths for the Non-Profit Volunteer and Internship Fair that took place in Henry Hall.

Riley Collins

As a new or undecided returning student at a university, the number of major and minor options available to students can seem overwhelming. Grand Valley State University’s majors fair was created to assist in the difficult process of choosing a major and committing to it. The fair is also geared toward students considering changing their major as well as undecided students. The fair will take place Wednesday, Nov. 2 in the Kirkhof Center Grand River Room form 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The number of freshmen entering GVSU undecided on a major has grown from 629 students in 2011 to 1,177 in 2016. With this drastic rise in numbers, the fair has also grown in size.

“I think it’s a one-stop shop to let students look at all of the options in terms of majors,” said Sulari White, senior associate director of the Student Academic Success Center (SASC). “Here, they can compare, contrast and commit to a major.”

“Commit” may be a frightening word for a lot of students under pressure to make many long-term decisions such as choosing a major. So the purpose of the majors fair is to offer students the option of doing everything – talking to departments of interest, creating a plan and committing to a major – all at once if they wish. The fair seeks to get questioning students started on a path and offer almost-certain students the option to commit to a program and a plan.

A problem can arise however, after commitment, for students entering extremely competitive programs as well as students wanting to change a major they’ve already committed to. Students in these programs sometimes face the hectic scramble that comes with not having a back-up plan. For this reason, the majors fair offers students the opportunity to create a “parallel plan,” which White explained should be considered an “option two.” She urges students to question, while they are planning their major, what else they could be planning for.

In addition, while some majors are relatively straightforward and result in careers that don’t have to be interpreted with a job’s description, others may be trickier to view in terms of “what comes after.”

“When there’s not a one-to-one correlation between a major and career, sometimes students can get challenged,” White said.

The fair gives students the opportunity to talk with the faculty they’ll be working with within a major program as well as alumni who can give them an idea of what comes after they leave GVSU. Not only has the number of undecided students who attend the fair grown steadily over the years, but the number of alumni volunteers ready to assist students in their decisions has as well.

“This year, we have a great turn out – 65 alumni signed up for the fair compared about 35 last year,” said Kim Schmidt, associate director of alumni relations. The alumni association and the SASC work closely together, bringing the fair and its participants together.

“Alumni like it because they get to be on campus again,” Schmidt said. “They come back, meet up with old professors and have good conversations.”

The majors fair is open to all students, even those who have already decided on a major.