When Your First Year Doesn’t Go as Planned

You had high hopes for your first year at Ohio State, but it’s probable some facet of your experience has fallen short of or been different from your original expectations. As second semester is wrapping up, you may be facing a few questions and concerns.

I was used to getting good grades in high school. What happened?

College is much different from high school in terms of academic expectations, the ways you are tested, and professor-student relationships. It is important not only to recognize these differences, but to take actions that will help you succeed in this new and more challenging learning environment.

The emphasis in college is more on the application of the material you are learning rather on the material itself. While taking an exam, you may find yourself thinking, “We didn’t go over how to do this problem in class!” Panic mode usually ensues and you get upset at the professor for doing such a thing. In reality, not much changes throughout college and even into the working world. This style of testing forces you to leverage what you do know and apply it to something you may have never seen before; it is a tough transition at first, but gets easier the more you learn how you study best (and how you “studied” in high school is likely not how you should be studying in college).

You also may have been used to having immediate and easy access to your teachers in high school; now, if you want help, you need to seek it out yourself. Gone are the days of exams that are just like the study guide. I can’t emphasize enough how valuable office hours can be if you do not understand material you have been going over in class or want to gain insight into what topics your professor finds most important in terms of testing. It may be difficult to believe, but your professors want you to succeed.

If you have not recieved the grades you were expecting, I know it can be discouraging, but believe me when I say, “It is okay!” The issue is not your intelligence or maybe even your effort; it is likely that you have not made the transition from the high school mentality towards education to the college mentality. What can you do about it?

  • Use a planner or electronic calendar (I use Google Calendar) to plan out when you will study/work on homework for each week
  • Take study breaks and be conscious of your engagement level.
  • Don’t cram. Try to keep up with material as you are going through it in class.

 

I tried to get involved but I haven’t found the meaningful involvement I thought I would.

There is often a period of feeling like the “new guy” when you begin coming around to different organizations, but the more you go, the more people you begin to recognize and get to know, and the more friends you begin to make in that organization. Eventually, you will start to feel like it is a place you belong if you are patient and make it through that initial adjustment period.

It certainly helps to try and find organizations that align with your values, goals, or views on life as it becomes a place in which you feel refreshed and encouraged. I did not begin feeling like I truly found opportunities that helped me grow as an individual and feel as if I was integrated into the community until my second year.

During my first year, I went through huge changes in terms of what role my faith played in my life. It became my everything and so naturally, I got involved with a church on campus called H2O where I could continue to grow, learn, and be a part of an extremely caring community that can be fully empathetic toward my struggles and frustrations with life, with full understanding of my world view. This is not me saying that diversity of opinions in your life is to be avoided; rather, I’m emphasizing the importance of having support from a community that understand where you are coming from.

  • BE PATIENT. We all need to get over our culturally-imposed need for immediate gratification and be patient.
  • Figure out what you really care about in life, then sort through what types of organizations you may be interested in.
  • Deeply invest yourself in people and community. You probably won’t get much out of organizations if you view them as if they exist to serve you.
  • You are a Buckeye and you have a home at Ohio State. Finding that is the challenge, but it’s worth investing the time and energy to find it.

I still have no idea what I want to major in.

You are not alone! I changed my major in my second year. It happens. Focus on what you want your life to be about and how you want to use it, then work backwards and seek out opportunities in which you can contribute toward that purpose through your career. This summer is a good time to do some soul searching.

  • Reflect but know there’s no right answer. You will gain better direction as you get exposed to what is really out there through out your college career. Don’t be afraid to take opportunites to learn about new things.
  • A. W. Tozer’s Rules for Self-Discovery:
    • What we want most
    • What we think about most
    • How we use our money
    • What we do with our leisure time
    • The company we enjoy
    • Who and what we admire
    • What we laugh at

College is a huge time for personal growth but that doesn’t  happen if you do everything perfectly. Know that most people–including me–still struggle with these very same issues. I’ve found it helps to view college as a time to learn and develop your values, beliefs, and what truly interests you in life; the rest has a way of falling into place.

Switching Majors? Don’t Fret

First-years: having qualms about your major? Uncertain about the future? Don’t fret — you’re not alone. Deciding what to major in is challenging. It can feel like one decision determines the trajectory of your life — which is overwhelming, to say the least.

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Choosing a major that’s right for you boils down to one little formula: find something you’re passionate about but is still sensible.

For instance, one of my friends loves civil liberties, women’s studies, and everything in between. Her major, political science, is both practical and applicable, and it’s something she’s overzealous about. There are hundreds of majors at Ohio State, and I can guarantee there is something for you; it just needs to be discovered.

If you’re unsure where to begin, start by talking to an expert. The Younkin Success Center offers career counseling and consultations.

Although it’s a bit cheesy, also consider consulting a career quiz.

It’s OK to not have everything figured out. There are resources and people to help! Switching majors can seem stressful, specifically when changing from department to department.

When I switched from the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences to the College of Engineering, I was a bit dazed with an entirely new schedule and even different class settings and locations. However, there are counselors for that. If you’re thinking about switching, talk to an advisor. They will help you transition smoothly and alleviate a lot of stress.

Finding the best fit isn’t always cut and dry. Remember to focus on finding something that gets you excited. Whether it be science, psychology, business, or anything in between, an awesome major awaits you.

So You’re Thinking About Switching Your Major?

Did you begin your first year thinking you had the perfect major and career figured out? Did you take a random class that you ended up loving, or take a class you thought you would love and it ended up not really working out? Do not panic! We have all had at least one moment in college where we freeze, have a mini panic attack, and think, “what I am I doing with my life.” Whether it just lasts a minute or a semester, these moments are a great way to help you step back and ask yourself, “Am I happy with my major and the path my future is on?”

When I first stepped into SPHHRNG 2230: Introduction to Communication and Its Disorders, I thought, “Yes, this going to be amazing! I am going to be able to help so many kids, I cannot wait to be a speech pathologist!” Fast forward six weeks into the class and my thought process was not exactly the same. Though I had never had a specific class or experience that immediately turned me away from the field, I did have an extremely strong gut feeling that this path was just not meant for me.

In that same semester, I took PSYCH 1100: Introduction to Psychology for the sole purpose of receiving general education credit. However, as the class progressed I started realizing how much I was enjoying it. I noticed I was more excited to read my psychology textbook than my book for speech and hearing science. When I realized I wanted to switch my major to psychology, I did not go into their office and switch my major the next day. I finished out my speech and hearing science class and started to take some steps that helped me confirm that psychology was going to be the right major for me.

Here are four things that helped me with my decision to switch majors:

Talk to Someone

Whether it is your academic advisor, RA, Hall Director, parents, mentor, coach, etc., talk to someone about how you are feeling.  No one is going to blame you for questioning your options (that is what college is for). If you are genuinely unhappy in your major or classes, let someone know; let them what you do not like about the path you are currently on and where you would like to see yourself end up. There are people here to help you find out what you want to do and how to point you in the right direction to get back on track.

Use Your Resources

There are so many resources on campus that are here to help you decide on what is best for you! The Younkin Success Center offers career counseling that is personalized to your interests and gives individualized sessions. Additionally, every college on campus has some sort of career services outlet can help to students find out what they want to do with their life after college.

Set up a meeting with your academic advisor or with one in the major you are considering. They can tell you more about the major and everything you can do with it. Two awesome things about talking with academic advisors:

  • They can connect you with students who are currently in the major to get their perspective
  • They know so many more things you can do with the major that you may have never known existed

Research, Research, Research!

Look into all the areas in which you are interested. Find out what you can do with a degree in food science or anthropology. Be adventurous! Look up facts and articles about what is currently going on in the field and see if it is something you could see yourself doing one day. You will never know if it could be something your passionate about until you look!

Ask Yourself, Are YOU Happy?

Your major is going to set you up on a path that will direct the rest of your future. Are you going to be happy being an engineer, teacher, doctor, nutritionist, etc. for the next 25+ years? Is it going to fulfill your life and passions, besides just filling your bank account?  It is a decision that is entirely yours to make! Do not let family, friends, or society pressure you into a decision they think is best. You are the most important part of this equation. If you are happy and passionate about what you want to do, then pursue it!

Through talking to LOTS of people, researching different careers I could do with psychology, utilizing my academic advisor and the psychology department, and some self-reflection, I knew that switching my major was the thing to do.  All of the things I did reassured me that majoring in psychology was going to put in the right direction even if I did not have every piece of the puzzle figured out just yet.

Breathe. Trust me, more people end up switching their major then what you realize. It is completely 100% okay to do. If you think switching your major is the thing to do, then do it! College is the time to explore your options and figure out what you want to spend the rest of your life doing.