The W&M First Year Experience

Entries Tagged as 'Choosing A Major'

The COLL curriculum

July 16th, 2018 by W&M FYE · No Comments

My experience with the COLL curriculum has been really unique, as I feel it is for every William & Mary student. My class was the first to be on the new system, so I think a lot of us were unsure of what it would be like. Yet, I think it more than successfully accomplishes its job.

The COLL curriculum works to not only expose you to different subject areas outside of your intended major (or what you believe it to be) but also different ways of thinking. Your freshman seminars, or COLL 100 & 150, cover the different forms of communication. The COLL 100 discusses non-written forms, such as presentations and websites, while the COLL 150 focuses on writing, including research papers and projects. The subject matter of these courses is completely interdisciplinary; you cannot take a class in any one subject because the curriculum calls on multiple disciplines. My COLL 100 was called Archeology of the Anthropocene; a class that I thought would involve historical digs in the Wren yard and analyzing broken pots and artifacts. Yet, it turned out to discuss our current geological period, the Anthropocene, and how it was named after humans, as we are the greatest geological force currently on the planet. Through emissions and pollution, we have changed almost every naturally occurring cycle – a shift that can be recorded through geology and studied in archeology. While I was interested in business as an incoming freshman, this introduced me to conservation and sustainability in an eye-opening way, so much so that I have incorporated it into many of the marketing projects I have done.

The COLL 200s really focus on this different way of thought in that you are exposed to science, culture, and active learning – hands-on learning in the arts. My favorite experience within the COLL 200s has been my time with studio art. My first class was my freshman year, and I’ve taken an art class almost every semester since then. The curriculum really affords you the time to take classes in subjects that you might not major or minor in, but still want to be a part of your experience. I’ve really found an outlet in art that I didn’t think would be a part of my college experience, but it has been incredibly rewarding.

The COLL 300 level is called “In the World” and is fulfilled by a study abroad course, or an on-campus option with a lecture series. I chose not to study abroad in my time, so I explored the on-campus option, taking VA Plantations: Then & Now. This course studied the history of Slavery in Virginia and the nation, how it is discussed in Plantation sites, and how slavery is captured in museums and history. I had never taken a history class in college before, so I was thrilled to be given the opportunity, especially in a course so relevant and important to society today. For the COLL 300 side of the course, we heard from three lecturers that discussed the topic of the semester, sustainability, and then we created a research project that followed that topic in the scope of our class. I wrote about the sustainability of photography of slavery and how that spread/continues to spread knowledge of that part of history.

Finally, the COLL 400 is your capstone – it is specific to your major and gives you the opportunity to be hands on in even an independent study, research, or honors project. For my Marketing Major within the business school next semester, I am taking Global Strategic Management, a course that focuses on strategy in the global market.

The COLL curriculum is a really incredible academic experience, and it enhances the William & Mary journey ever much so. As a student, you will ascertain your passions in college and gain perspective into what you may want to do once you leave these walls. I urge you to take risks and pick and choose as many diverse interests as possible – the school has so much to offer. Never be afraid to take a risk, because it might lead to the most meaningful experience you have inside the classroom.


Tags: Choosing A Major · Prep for W&M

Tips & Tricks for YOUR First Year at William & Mary

August 11th, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

Hey there! My name is Kathy Hopkins and I’m a rising senior here at William & Mary. I work in the Office of First Year Experience as one of the ten Orientation Area Directors, so I am SUPER excited to welcome all of our new students to campus in August, especially now that Orientation is less than 1 month away! Today I’ll share a little bit about my first year experience and hopefully get you excited about YOUR first year here!
On a lovely August morning three years ago, I moved into (arguably) the best freshman hall: Monroe! While I had never lived in a building with 150 strangers before, after sitting in class and grabbing meals together, they became some of my closest friends on campus. Even to this day we enjoy hanging out at Busch Gardens and winning intramural championships together!
Meeting new people extends beyond the residence hall as well! Since my faith has always been really important to me, I immediately got involved with Catholic Campus Ministry and took a trip to Virginia Beach where I enjoyed a delicious Dairy Queen Blizzard and met several upperclassmen who offered lots of guidance and support as I decided which other clubs I should join and which major I wanted to pursue.
Speaking of majors…I knew I wanted to study neuroscience before I came to William & Mary since I wanted the opportunity to explore undergraduate research and clinical volunteer work. Luckily enough, I was able to pursue BOTH of these things my freshman year! I studied the applications of reading microexpressions in the context of political psychology then became certified in reading microexpressions myself. I also started volunteering at Lackey Clinic at the end of my first year where I scribe for different medical providers as they treat the uninsured patients of the Greater Williamsburg area. Both my research and scribing at Lackey have been such great learning experiences and have prepared me to apply to medical school this year!
I’ll wrap up with a few quick tips for your first year at William & Mary:
1. Get to know the people around you!
Our fellow students here are some of the most amazing people in the world and your college experience will be multiplied if you take the chance to learn from your peers. Ask people what classes they’re taking and which clubs they want to check out at the activities fair! W&M students aren’t just passionate about our classes and extracurriculars, we’re passionate about each other.
2. Make time to relax.
Go for a stroll in Colonial Williamsburg or read a book on the dock by Lake Matoaka. The first few weeks of the semester can be busy, but make time to rejuvenate so you can be the best version of yourself during your time here!
3. Be bold.
College is a time for exploration. Take a class in a subject you’ve never heard of. Grab a meal with someone, even if you’ve just met them! Your college experience will be unique to your interests, so feel free to explore your passions and learn something new each day while you’re here!
I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer! Get excited to become a part of our Tribe as we’re very excited to welcome you to your new home here at William & Mary!!!
With love & excitement,
Kathy Hopkins

Tags: Choosing A Major · Welcome

Finding Your “Why”

August 3rd, 2017 by W&M FYE · 1 Comment

Hi everyone! My name is Madison Ochs, and I’m a rising senior at the College from Lawrenceville, New Jersey. In the classroom, I am a self-designed major in Human Mechanisms of Metacognition, which is a technical way to say I designed a major that allows me to study how people learn and think about thinking. I’ve always been interested in this field of study and I love how I can apply what I learn to anything else I do, be it another kind of class or an internship. Outside of the classroom, I volunteer in The Haven, am a sister of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and work for the Office of First Year Experience as an Orientation Area Director! All of these activities are so important to me because they allow me to spend tons of time with people who share interests with me while focusing on accomplishing a common goal, whether it is making a personal difference with the people who visit The Haven, planning a philanthropy event with my sisters for the entire campus, or organizing and preparing an Orientation program that reflects the passions and priorities of FYE!

Hearing me talk about how much I love this school and how I have spent my time leaves some people surprised to hear that I haven’t actually gone to William & Mary for four full years, and that I actually transferred to the College halfway through my sophomore year. My first year at William & Mary was when most other people were halfway through their time here, and that was intimidating at first, of course. It was also an amazing way to make sure I took nothing for granted and put intention behind all of the decisions I made. When I was signing up for classes, I thought about why I wanted to take certain courses and made sure to leave room for random bits of exploration in subjects I had never touched, like my class in Organizational Behavior. The course sounded interesting, I had never taken a business class before, and now I’m pursuing a minor in Organizational Leadership & Management and loving my time in the business school! I never would have found my current minor and some spectacular classes and professors if I hadn’t taken a chance on a random class just for the heck of it.

“…my most meaningful involvements out of the classroom, or some of my favorite experiences that I can look back on and say, ‘I’m glad I tried, but I don’t need to do it again.'”

Sometimes, I encountered things that weren’t a great fit or that I didn’t like as much as I thought I would, I felt as though I had to stick it out or else I was quitting. If I had followed that guideline, I would not have ended up with my current major, my most meaningful involvements out of the classroom, or some of my favorite experiences that I can look back on and say, “I’m glad I tried, but I don’t need to do it again.” Many people go through high school or their early years of college feeling as though they have to rack up certain classes and intense leadership positions in several clubs within a certain set of parameters or subjects to be attractive to colleges or future employers. While there is some wisdom to cultivating a well-rounded, enriching experience, those résumé items don’t mean a thing if they don’t speak to you. Why bother spending so much time chasing something that you couldn’t care less about?

I work with Orientation because I had such a spectacular experience when I transferred, I met one of my role models during my Orientation, I think those first days are incredibly formative, and I love getting involved with cultivating and crafting our school’s community to leave it even better than it was when I arrived. As another example, one of my best friends organized the William & Mary Global Innovation Challenge to help other students cultivate interests in international development, help her hone her own skills, challenge herself as a leader and participate in a project that would last past her own graduation. There are tons of these kinds of stories, about any kind of involvement or class or decision made during college.

“The best advice I can think of to pass on to incoming students, no matter what age or interest or identity, is to cultivate your ‘why.'”

It’s hard to swim against the stream, and it’s even harder to feel like you aren’t sure of your final destination when doing so. I guarantee you’ll have a few moments where you aren’t sure what to choose. How to choose, though, is simple. In the Office of First Year Experience, we like to talk about your “why”, a mystical and magical concept that encompasses a person’s personal, inner motivations for doing something. The best advice I can think of to pass on to incoming students, no matter what age or interest or identity, is to cultivate your “why.” William & Mary provides its students with countless opportunities to do truly extraordinary things, but it is up to you to choose what to do. Sometimes your “why” is very personal and profound, like the reason I work in The Haven (my personal experiences with issues of gender discrimination and a passion for sexual assault prevention and education), but sometimes it is lighthearted and goofy, like the reason I want to try out for the Syndicate dance team (it looks fun, it’s a last chance to try something new, and I really love the music they dance to). It takes time, and not every choice will end up being the perfect fit, but that is okay! If you focus on feeding your passions and following that “why”, you will have the most fulfilling college experience imaginable.

I can’t wait to meet you during Orientation, and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me or anyone in FYE! Enjoy the rest of your summer, and Go Tribe!

Tags: Choosing A Major · Welcome

What Should a First Semester Schedule Look Like?

July 12th, 2017 by W&M FYE · 1 Comment

Hi there. It’s Danielle again. As the summer progresses and we get closer to orientation, here at FYE we’ve been getting more and more questions about what a first semester schedule may look like. And while most incoming students have started College Studies on Blackboard (an online mini-course led by peer advisors to introduce new students to the Coll curriculum, the course catalog, etc.) I thought it might be helpful to write about my first semester schedule when I was a freshman.

Now, I admit. It’s been a while since I was a first-year here at William and Mary (5 years to be exact) but the stress of registration and the agony of deciding what to major in hasn’t changed since then. I feel like most new students will go through that as well.

So there I was, two days before classes started and the last day of orientation, lying in my bed (which stood on risers and was way too high up off the ground but that’s another story entirely) when the OA’s (orientation aides) came walking down the hallway, banging on pots to wake us up for our 7am registration. I had heard that week from other students and professors that registrations is stressful, that banner crashes all the time, that I won’t get into any of the classes I want. And for some, that may be true. Depending on the courses you select, if they are smaller in size but very popular or needed by most majors, it can be difficult to get into. However, don’t let that deter you. There are always alternatives. There is always another semester. And the great thing about the first two weeks of classes is that that is also the add/drop period, or as some like to call it – the shopping period. You get to sample different classes and just drop them without consequence if you decide that Arabic 101, an 8am class that runs every day, isn’t for you.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t make that decision. I took an 8am Arabic 101 course because I thought, if I want to be fluent in Arabic by the time I graduate, I better start now! Bright and early! Yea, dragging myself out of bed at 7am every day and making the long walk from Botetourt to the Wren building wasn’t the best way to spend my first semester. But I actually enjoyed the class. It was fun, exposed me to another language and culture and I knew how to count to 10 in Arabic for a while. Which brings me to my next point: be sure to take classes out of your comfort zone. Did I need Arabic? No. Did it satisfy a requirement? No. But it was great and got me to explore new ideas.

I also took a great and insightful philosophy course…okay, I went to it once and dropped it as soon as class ended. Seriously, I didn’t even leave the building before I logged on to banner and hit “drop”. Again, the add/drop period is great for this reason, so that if you don’t get into the class you wanted right away, don’t stress. There are other options.

In the end, I ended up with four courses – Arabic 101, Psychology as a Social Science, the History and Religion of Ancient Israel (don’t ask, I don’t know either – but it satisfied a requirement when I decided to minor in Religious Studies my senior year) and Modern Dance. Yea, so modern dance is a class I was talked into by my roommate. “It’ll be great”, she said. “We’ll have fun”, she said. All I remember is rolling around on the floor a lot. Now, listen. I did not expect to be taking a dance class my first semester (again, I didn’t need it) but it was actually fun. And quite a few girls from my hall ended up taking it and we were all able to laugh at each other and ourselves at how bad we all were. It was an easy course, satisfied one of my 2 credit requirements and again, exposed me to something new. All of this is not to say that you shouldn’t look at your curriculum and major requirements to make sure you satisfy them as you go along – just don’t get bogged down by them. You have eight whole semesters (or more if you’re part time) to finish all of your requirements.

Overall, my first semester was probably one of my least stressful semesters. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. Give yourself time to adjust to a new environment, make friends, explore clubs and sports (I went through several different clubs including swim club – not sure what I was thinking because I’m a horrible swimmer, but you get the point – get out there and explore!). The first semester is not there to load up with 16 or more credits. Take it easy and find what works best for you. Oh and if it wasn’t for that 8am Arabic class, I would’ve had Fridays off completely. Learn from my mistakes!

Tags: Choosing A Major · Welcome

Figuring it Out: What should I Major in?

July 7th, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

Hi everyone! It’s Nathanial again. Figuring out a major can easily be one of the biggest challenges in college. Between working out class schedules and balancing studying, hanging out, and exploring clubs and other activities, trying to figure out an academic concentration can feel overwhelming. Our majors and minors can significantly influence our career trajectories and occupational goals.

Below is some advice garnered from my college experience, work, and volunteering opportunities since attending college as a new first-year student, overwhelmed by all the possibilities that were in front of me.

  1. Take a variety of classes in various subject areas- not just ones that you think pertains to a career path you are still not 100% sure of! Some of the best classes I have taken were ones involving Judaic studies, starting a new language, or taking an American history seminar on society and culture after WWII.
  2. Electives are not only good for trying out other disciplines and subjects of interest, but they also show that a candidate is well-rounded. Taking classes that you are genuinely interested in will be apparent in applications for future graduate studies or employment opportunities. When learning about things that interest us, the syllabus will also not feel as daunting.
  3. Despite the cheesy platitude, a class can truly be life-changing. In college, I never knew that a class on Judaic traditions would later spark an interest in spirituality or meditation. It’s cool to get exposure to new concepts and ways of viewing the world. You never know how it might come in handy later!
  4. Choose a major advisor that you connect with personally or intellectually, not just professionally. Your major advisor will be able to guide you through processing and exploring your interests, strengths, and how those could match a future career. Oftentimes, we are not even aware of what is out there once we declare a major. Many told me my Psychology degree would make it more difficult to find a job. However, not only did I find salaried jobs related to counseling that required a psychology or related degree, but my major in college indirectly exposed me to facets of the helping profession and counseling that I would not have known about otherwise.
  5. Show self-acceptance and take a deep breath! Many college students do not have their major figured out initially or even after a few semesters. In today’s working world, many professionals switch career tracks after a decade or two in one profession. Remember that you are not stuck in one career path after deciding on a certain trajectory.
  6. For those of you who are already sure of a pre-professional path, such as pre-law or pre-med, know that you do not have to only take rigorous science or philosophy courses. There is plenty of room for interesting and fun electives, which will often be a welcome relief from the studying and planning for future applications. Additionally, many pre-professional students major in seemingly unrelated fields, such as English, sociology, and American Studies.
  7. Undeclared is the way to go for many students- it can often be beneficial to take a few semesters to explore a variety of subject matters to find what you are passionate about. With the major transitions that occur when adjusting to college life, there is no rush to declare a major when there is plenty of time to explore and decide. In fact, you do not have to declare your major until you acquired 54 credits, which means that most students will declare their major at the end of their sophomore year.
  8. College is not only about finding a career path that pays well or has a promising career outlook. It is very possible to find a career path that brings you joy as well as provides that challenge to continue growing professionally as well as personally. Contentedness and career-trajectory are not mutually exclusive!
  9. Remember that some stress can be a good thing, but too much stress can be overwhelming. Utilize the Counseling Center, family and social supports, as well as spiritual and community mentors to maintain a healthy balance in a high-paced collegiate environment!
  10. And lastly, utilize resources such as the Cohen Career Center, the Academic Advising Office, pre-major, majorpre-professional advisors or professors in your preferred field of study to find out areas you excel in. Career aptitude tests are available at the career center, and many professors with years of experience are able to see if a student has a passion for a certain field. The university is there to support you every step of the way!



Tags: Choosing A Major · Welcome