Gotta Work With What You Got: Making the Most of Your Major

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As an undergraduate student, it’s imperative to make the most of whatever magical major you choose. Now is the time to take full advantage of your collegiate opportunities. You’ll thank yourself later for tending to small goals in order to reach the big ones. To truly expand your knowledge and (fingers crossed) land the dream job you’ve always wanted, you can’t overlook the details. Experts weighed in on how to rock your major to its fullest potential.

Expand your horizons

“Take a broad range of courses, so you have plenty of hands-on experience,” UVA music professor Judith Shatin said. Especially with arts and sciences, pay attention to historical context to make sense of the big picture. You’ll want what you learn to be relevant to as many aspects of your future life as possible. Moreover, with a variety of classes, you’ll get dibs on tons of cool professors. In your earliest semesters, chat with them liberally. They are 100 percent there to help you make decisions if you are having cold feet about your major or need advice on how to improve.

Break out of the classroom

Look for clubs and activities that spark your interest. There are countless organizations on your campus that could use your perspective. Bonus: They’ll allow you to gain knowledge and experience you can refer to in interviews or on resumes. If you’re a music major, consider joining an ensemble. Foreign affairs majors swing by Model UN meetings. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there to gain any sort of experience available in your collegiate environment.

Talk to people

Often, students miss out on things because they are too focused on getting grades. The truth is, you limit your experience when you’re obsessed with straight A’s. Get involved with local events concerning your interests, whether it’s attending seminars, guest lectures, demonstrations or concerts. Be a student who knows members of the community you hope to become a part of. On that note, one of those members should be a faculty member. This isn’t first grade — having a professor for a BFF is far from lame. “We have experience, advice and a broad network that could be incredibly useful,” UVA biology professor Sarah Kucenas said.

Challenge yourself

Don’t be afraid to enroll in that daunting, exciting advanced-level class; you can handle it if you dive into your assignments head-first. The more you expand your knowledge about the material, the more you can bring to the table in class discussions and to future employers. Again, it’s crucial to engage with your instructors, who have years of experience to pour out to you.

Get your hands dirty

If you want a competitive edge in employers’ eyes, you’re going to have to get in there and score some professional experience. Where should you look to find work opportunities or internships related to your major? Most campuses have career service centers that are great places to start, and everyone has an advisor who is paid to do just that — advise. Plus, this is when having your teacher BFF comes in handy. “Talk to your professors to see if they can suggest possibilities for you,” Shatin said.

All in all, it may be surprising to realize that making the most of your major doesn’t mean getting the highest GPA. Instead, you can realize your full potential when you step out of the box and use the many tools around you, whether it’s seeking advice from local leaders or participating in places you’ve never ventured before.

A Media Studies and Music major at the University of Virginia, Hannah loves creative endeavors. She marches to the beat of her own drum. Literally.

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