My major? Still deciding...

National higher education research has shown that up to 80 percent of students entering college admit they're not certain what they really want to major in, even if they've initially declared a major. Cue the academic advising office at UNI.

Academic advising
A UNI student participates in an academic advising session.

The Office of Academic Advising provides a variety of services and tools to students who are interested in exploring major and career options, including those who may be deciding or changing majors, or first-year students. One-on-one visits with advisers provide helpful information about majors, minors and certificates; academic requirements, policies and procedures; basics like using MyUNIverse to view a degree audit and register online; learning how to build a course schedule; and how to access other beneficial resources.

For Dave Marchesani, associate director of the Office of Academic Advising, it's all about helping students understand the "why." Determining why people like to perform a particular set of tasks, but not another, helps form a better understanding of themselves and sets the stage for better decision-making. "Major and career decision making comes down to an understanding of self, an understanding of the world of work (i.e. jobs and work environments), and ultimately choosing options based upon an understanding of both."

Students who are looking to check out their options a little more informally can take advantage of academic advising's online tools like "Career Cruising," an interest inventory assessment that suggests possible career paths based on how much you like or dislike certain types of tasks and activities. Workshops, the "Career Decision Making" course and events like the popular "Majors in Minutes," where a speed-dating approach allows students to visit with peers in majors they're interested in, are also very beneficial.

Another option for students who live on campus is to connect with their residence hall's Peer Academic Advisor in Residence (PAIR). PAIRs offer academic advising services to fellow students, often in the comfort of their own residence hall. Paige McKillip, a senior psychology major and PAIR in Rider Hall, most enjoys interacting with students one-on-one. "Knowing that I helped one of my peers find an answer to their question is my favorite part of the job."

"Life is a series of opportunities," says Marchesani, "and the transition to college, finding academic success, and making academic and career decisions aren't always easy. Students shouldn't hesitate to use the services and resources on campus to become more informed and expand or challenge their thinking."