Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You Study WHAT?

   For many people the system of Higher Education is a pathway to studying the things that fascinate you. For some it might be the work of the Romantic Poets, the 1667 government of Germany, or the way that molecules work under different temperatures. Everybody finds certain things more fascinating than others, however justifying your interests can sometimes be difficult.

When I was younger I always wondered why we did not study modern history in High School. When I was a Senior in 2003 I wondered why the history in my textbook stopped at 1985, the year AFTER I was born. I pondered why my computer science courses only taught the bare essentials of what a PC was, as opposed to the different aspects of what a PC was capable of, etc... There seemed to be an obvious gap in knowledge between when a book was made and when I was being educated. Things that were current made no headway in our courses, unless something was so important that it interrupted the start of class via conversation. This rarely, if ever, occurred.

College however was vastly different. Many courses taught based on the "now" and they encouraged students to focus on new, popular trends for debate, dialogue, writing, and conversation. Obviously one might argue that courses in the History field might favor the past vs. the popular, but it is my belief that the two periods are interconnected by events which the Historian strives to uncover. What is a popular event today might have a basis in taboo events from the 1700's, for example.

But once you enter college, how do you decide what to study? Well, my advice would be to take your core courses (or, as many as possible) first. Having a wide range of classes to take might allow you to discover something you genuinely enjoy and it will give you time to think about pursuing that focus via a Bachelors Degree. Still, some people start college knowing full well they want a degree as a Mechanical Engineer. The point is, know what you want by experience, not by hear-say. I have known people who genuinely believed that History was their desired field, however upon reaching their Senior year they loathed it utterly and wished they were taking Biology classes.

Still, pursuing your passion can be hard. You will have to be the "captain of your own career-ship" so-to-speak. If you love History (but don't know what kind of a job you want with it), but you know you can be guaranteed work out of college with a Nursing or Engineering degree, well ... you've got a tough choice before you.

1. Talk with Academic Advisors upon entering college. --- This one might seem obvious, but I recommend you talk to every professor in the department you are interested in ASAP. You will possibly be assigned an Undergraduate Advisor for non-specific degree material upon entering college, but that cannot stop you from ALSO talking to anybody else you can make appointments with. Gain knowledge and seriously grill these people about job prospects. Inquire, be demanding (but polite), and do research outside of college, too!

2. Gain Pointers From Your Community. --- For some degree paths, Advisors can be of little or no help. Some degrees might need you to focus heavily on extra-curricular work such an Internships, interviews, and part-time work. This is not the case for every major, however outside of the classroom the people who will someday be your employers might require things NOT on a college schedule plan. if you want to work in Nursing, check the region for how interns are treated at different hospitals. If you want to be an Engineer, check and see what kinds of work real engineers are doing in your city and talk to them. You'll be surprised what you might learn, as well as how easy this pursuit can make you connections.

3. Do extra work. --- What do I mean by "extra work" when I am already saying you could talk to EXTRA Advisors and that you should talk to people OUTSIDE college? Simply put, you need to build yourself into an expert and that requires time and reading. Read anything and everything on your subject of interest as possible. If something is challenging, read more on it. I recently became stumped on why anybody would find Lacan interesting. I decided to do my own readings into the literary/psychology aspects of him, and now I can understand more papers and books than I could before. Build yourself into an expert through every means available to you.

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