Students should avoid relying on expectations about college

Nrhari Duran

When you first move onto the 40 Acres, you have a lot to learn. From figuring out how to operate a dorm shower (without getting scalded) to finding your classes on day one, it helps to know a little in advance. For students going into or thinking about college, the decision of what to major in is governed by having that kind of preparation, but to what effect?

Having prior knowledge can mean the difference between getting lost in the sauce on Sixth Street and ending the night in a warm bed before midnight, but in the classroom the situation is a little bit different. 

Communication professor Gary Wilcox, who has taught introductory courses for 15 years, says high school course material may complicate learning college content. Wilcox detailed how having information can help across various fields of study, but core content from high school classes such as history or government can make learning in college difficult, primarily because of curriculum differences. Freshmen are most likely to walk into a classroom at UT with this prior knowledge, be it to their advantage or disadvantage.

Beyond misconceptions from high school, Wilcox pointed out another potential pitfall of having these preconceived notions; freshmen and sophomores often envision inaccurate ideas of career work. Using the example of a hypothetical medical student, the professor outlined how a student may follow a path up to college before realizing that the practice is not something the hypothetical student would be fulfilled dedicating a lifetime towards. When asked when these students most often had this realization and switched majors, Wilcox answered “the first two years.”

While it’s easy to call this testimony an isolated incident, American education statistics support the concept of misconceptions causing career indecisiveness. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that roughly 80 percent of college students change their major at least once before graduation, largely occurring in the first two years. In fact, the research goes beyond indecision. The NCES furthers that in roughly 60 percent of cases in the U.S., students take within six years to attain their bachelor’s degree, with 80 percent of Longhorns in the case of UT, according to the UT Admissions Office. And often times these students suffer from extra credit hours earned, you guessed it, between or in previous majors. 

So what can college-bound sophomaniacs do to best make use of their first 12 years of education while avoiding the all-too-common “freshman-two-years”? Wilcox suggests keeping an open mind and expecting lots of switches. According to Michelle Ledesma, a fourth-year bilingual education major, students ought to “make sure to make connections with the content you are learning. Making connections with your life and your community around you helps you learn the content,” because that’s the ultimate goal of the classroom environment. 

Switching majors should be expected, as four-fifths of the nation will attest to, but so long as you keep an open mind and apply what you learn, students can switch closer and closer to their suitable major — in a timely manner, of course.

Duran is an international relations and global studies sophomore from Spring. Follow him on Twitter @BboyDeadfish.