Sunday, May 06, 2012

Guerilla Advising

Last night I was at a festive location near campus, and I found myself in close proximity to undergraduates, some of which I knew and others of which I did not. Many conversations eventually turned to the students' academic plans.
The Freshman:
She doesn't know what she wants to major in. She wants to be employable after she graduates. My advice: Look at the whole list of the classes that fulfill the gen-ed requirements, not just the go-to short list that the advisors use (like the religious studies class that fulfills three different requirements at once) and pick things that seem interesting. Look at the list of majors and try out something that seems to be both employable and enjoyable. If, in the meantime, you find that your passion is in something that has no real job market, then do that as a minor (or a second major).
The Computer Scientist:
His grades are not so great. He is super-smart, probably one of the brightest undergraduates that I have met at this university. (His grades are fine, in the sense that he is in no danger of being kicked out of school, but no one is going to go, "oh, wow!" about his GPA.) Should he focus his time on getting his GPA up? Or continue to work on coding and developing really cool and innovative side projects that have nothing to do with the assigned work in class. My advice: Work on the cool stuff, if you can have finished product(s) to show future employers/grad schools.
The Business Major:
Should she switch to a STEM field because it's so much easier to get a job? My advice: I reminded her that we have a mutual friend who has a degree in biology and now works two service sector jobs and another friend with a degree in chemistry who is attending trade school and yet another with a degree in math (with honors) who is excited about the possibility of doing IT for $15/hour with no benefits.