Junior Advice: How to have a Successful First Year as an Undecided Student

Your first year of college comes with a lot of different emotions. From excitement to nervousness to feeling overwhelmed, there is so much going through your head those first couple of weeks. Just to let you know: that is all completely normal! When I was a first year, I was so excited but very overwhelmed at the same time, especially because I had no idea what I wanted to major in, let alone what I wanted to do after I graduate from Denison. Luckily, I have utilized the many resources provided by Denison and have successfully found my place as a Global Health and HESS (Health, Exercise, and Sports Studies) double major and know I will be successful in a healthcare career after leaving Denison. If you are a first year student undecided on your major, and are not sure where to start or you have a major in mind and are not sure if that’s what you really want to do, keep reading! Below are five tips that can help you decide if healthcare is the right field for you and how to go about deciding what major would be most appropriate for you.

  1. Utilize your advising circles
  • Being a part of an advising circle my first year was so helpful! It was nice to be in a smaller setting of people and get to know others.
  • I learned a lot about different resources at Denison such as the Academic Resource Center and the Red Frame Lab, to name two examples.
  • I  was able to get advice on how to get involved on campus and given that Global Health was a new major when I was a first year, it was helpful for me to ask questions about the department and be directed to appropriate people, so don’t be afraid to ask questions! Even if the advisor does not know, they will direct you to the right place!
  1. Reach out to your academic advisor
  • Your academic advisor is there to help you! Build a relationship with them as early as possible.
  • Never be afraid to ask them questions, stop by their office hours, and even schedule a time to get lunch or coffee with them.
  • Academic advisors can also hook you up with cool summer internships and research experiences. My advisor (shoutout Dr. Griffith!) sends me links to internships and opportunities I may be interested in which I always appreciate.
  1. Use the Knowlton Center
  • Similar to tip #2, do not be afraid to use the Knowlton Center as early as possible. You don’t have to have any specific questions, you can always just schedule an appointment with a Coach or Peer Fellow (like me!) to sit down and help you with anything you may need. 
  • The Knowlton Center can also help you find (and apply) for internships.
  • Whatever you may be interested in (Law, Healthcare, Business, etc.) there are peer fellows who would be more than willing to sit down and talk with you about navigating finding an internship/opportunity in the area you are interested in.
  1. Talk to Upperclassmen
  • As a first year, talking to a junior or senior about their experiences can be intimidating but it can be very helpful! Especially if they have a major that you think you may be interested in and want to know more about.
  • Talking to other Denison students can be nice because they can give you another student perspective and walk you through their experience or how they went about studying for a specific class, for example.
  • We’re all students at the end of the day so if you ever reach out to an upperclassmen, they will most likely be more than willing to give you advice or answer any questions you may have about their major/ work they are doing.
  1. Keep an open mind
  • You may think you know what you want to do, but your plans may change (and that is 100% okay!) When I first came to college, I was sure I wanted to be a political science major on the pre-law track. 3 years later and I’m on the complete opposite end of the spectrum doing pre-health work. 
  • Have a good support system (whether its family or friends) who you can lean on and turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed or need some encouragement.
  • Be open to change and give yourself grace! You don’t have to have everything figured out right away!

College is a journey. Before you know it, you will be halfway through and wondering where time went. Take it day and by day and try not to worry too much about the unknown (I know it’s easier said than done). You will find the right major for you, even if it’s not what you thought it would be. In the meantime, take a variety of classes that interest you and join organizations that interest you. Just trust that everything will fall into place and you will be exactly where you are meant to be!

By Victoria Turnier
Victoria Turnier Peer Career Fellow: Healthcare and Clinical Research