Let’s start with some simple definitions of these academic terms, and then we’ll get into how to make them work for you as you complete your undergraduate degree.
MAJORS: Your major is defined as the primary area of study upon which you will focus during your college career. Typically, you don’t have to declare your major until the end of your second year. Anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3 of your classes will be with-in this area of study. Your major selection will appear on your official transcript. Coursework will move from introductory classes, through the intermediate level and then advanced senior level, in a cohesive arrangement. You might also have more than one major.
MINORS: A minor course of study is a set of classes, from 15 to 18 credit hours, that is designed to complement and enhance your choice of major. Some college majors require a minor, but typically, the choice of minor is an individual one for each student to consider. A minor can be your opportunity to explore a new subject of interest, or add coursework that enriches your choice of major. Many colleges permit more than one and will identify that minor on the official transcript.
CONCENTRATIONS: These are coordinated groups of coursework that represent a sub-specialization or emphasis within a specific major field of study. They lie within your major and allow you to customize your college experience. Your selection of concentration, sometimes called a ‘track’, will also influence a prospective employer by providing her with more information about your specific areas of interest and expertise. In some colleges, many concentrations may also be offered as a minor.
Most high school students have no clear idea of what they want to study in college – they just know they want to get into the best possible college to help them realize their unique goals and ambitions. When looking at colleges, it is important to review each listing of academic majors available. Is there more than one that draws your interest?
According to a January 2018 National Center for Education Statistics study of 25,000 students, nearly one-third changed their major within 3 years of enrollment. As a nod to the understanding that many young people are unclear about their choice of major, some colleges are creating programs designed to encourage exploration across the range of liberal arts disciplines. Northeastern University offers a “Program for Undeclared Stu-dents” that includes a selection of course-work designed to encourage exploration and close association with talented advisors who help students make course selections that keep them on track with graduation requirements. Other colleges are making the choice of major an easier one by pushing back the timeline. Georgia State University has made this adjustment, resulting in a 32% decrease in the number of undergraduate major changes.
Some students also choose to complete two majors while other students take the opportunity to broaden their undergraduate career by selecting a minor. Often, colleges offer many minors, and several allow students to complete more than one. It is important to work closely with your advisor to be sure that you graduate on time. Two strong reasons for selecting a minor are personal fulfillment and professional enhancement. This also reveals to a prospective boss how accomplished you are across several fields, thus making you a more desirable candidate.
Students who resist being ‘put in a box’ will be really excited to review concentration options within their choice of major. Concentrations give students the chance to choose something that matches their personal interests, allowing them to explore and gain expertise in a sub-specialization of their major. Examples include Tourism and Hospitality Management with a concentration in Destination and Event Management, English major with a concentration in Science, Medicine and Literature, and Business Management with concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Accounting.
You’ve heard of Shakespeare’s metaphor about the world being your oyster? Well, in this case, a college degree can be your own personal pearl - to be selected, enhanced, and completed through a variety of course offerings, all designed to create a customized degree program that will re-ward you with both personal growth and professional opportunities.