Choose Your Own Adventure: College Edition! Making Your Degree Your OWN in College

Choosing a major can feel both overwhelming and limiting at the same time. Often, majors won’t cover everything you want to learn while in college, and that may seem like something you just have to deal with. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to! Here’s 5 tips to help you walk out of UW-Madison with a personalized and unique degree that fits all your needs:

UW-Madison’s Page for Undergraduate Opportunities

1.Double (or triple!) Major to Combine Your Interests

Coming into my freshman year, I was a declared Biomedical Engineering major, taking my only required Data Science class to get it out of the way. Quickly enough, I fell in love with it enough to decide to double major with Data Science. One thought process that I found helpful when making my decision was to visualize what my ideal job would look like, and decide whether the work I’d put into double majoring would help me get closer to that job. 

Take on as much as you can (and want)! Constantly check in with yourself on your long-term goals, and add majors to your path to get closer to those goals! If you have two goals that are polar opposites, that’s okay, too. While it would help for your majors to have some overlap, it’s definitely not the case for everyone. With the right planning, any combination of majors can work, and make you stand out! 

2.Declare a Certificate to Specialize in Your Field

As my college career progressed, I thought it would be a better fit for me to pursue only one major, Data Science. However, I found myself wanting to get a narrower look at Data Science, maybe through the lens of marketing or mass media. So, I looked through the certificate program guide at UW-Madison, and found the Digital Media Analytics certificate! 

Certificates are not only good for specializing, like how I’m using mine, but are also good for interests that you’d like to pursue, but aren’t willing to take on the course load of a whole major for. You can look through the certificates list at UW to find something that fits your passions or your professional path. 

3.Create a Timeline That Fits For You

I knew from my first semester of freshman year that I wanted an accelerated college experience, and began looking into graduating early. With careful planning and keeping my post-graduate goals in mind, I decided to graduate in three years, and that timeline has been the perfect balance between relaxed and challenging for me. 

If you’re unsure of what you want your timeline to look like at Madison, meeting with your advisor will be a huge help. They can help you with course planning, credit balance, and other advice that’ll put you on the path that feels right. 

4.Make the most out of your general education requirements

Being a Letters and Science major, I definitely had a hefty amount of general education requirements. Instead of viewing them as requirements, I found it helpful to view them as opportunities to expand my interests. This upcoming semester, I’m taking a dance class and a class about video games as gen-ed requirements. Even if these might not be directly related to my interests, it’s my only chance to take classes like that. 

Sometimes, you can feel that your major isn’t sufficient for your needs, but don’t know what else would give you the oomph you need. If that’s the case, you need to utilize your general education requirements! Need literature credit? Take a crime fiction class. Need an ethnic studies class? Register for a linguistics course. Use these seemingly unnecessary requirements to your advantage, and take classes that could potentially translate to long-term interests. 

5.Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Change!

If you told me my freshman year that I would be graduating as a Data Science major with a certificate in Digital Media Analytics, I would think you were talking about the wrong person. Furthermore, I wouldn’t even say my experience in switching interests is the most dramatic switch out there! 

Switching your major or certificate may seem scary, but if the alternative is being stuck on a path that you don’t enjoy, the switch will be worth it, trust me. College is YOUR time to explore, so if something isn’t working, change it. You’re going to change and grow during your time at your university, and with that, your interests and goals might change too. If and when that time comes, embrace those changes and allow yourself to make the most of your time here.

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