By Mark Wolfenbarger
Instead of having a concrete plan, many students spend the early part of their college careers wandering from course to course.
This forces students to take on classes outside of their comfort zone, which leads to stress and dropped classes. For some students, it can take several semesters before they realize the path they are on is not for them. St. Petersburg College (SPC) sophomore and web design major Stephanie Harrison went through this very process, “What I really wanted to do when I first started SPC was physics,” she said, “I love learning and reading about physics and astronomy. You have to put in a lot of work to go into that field. Being a mom and working full time didn’t give me enough time to devote to the subject. I consider physics and astronomy a hobby now.”
Despite her love of physics, Harrison realized that the workload was beyond her capabilities due to her other priorities. Instead, she chose a major that required less of her time. She also enjoys web design quite a bit. “I took a web design class and immediately fell in love with it,” she said, “I really enjoy being able to design and create websites from scratch.”
Students can take different classes to see what they like, but this approach can be expensive. University students can pay upwards of $50,000 per semester. Spending a semester on those terms does not sound realistic. In a 2010 Forbes article, Regional Director of Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Assistance Agency Dan Johnston said, “A better option is to audit a college course as a high school student or attend a community college and take a few courses without the big expense of attending full-time at a four-year college.” In other words, attending a school like St. Petersburg College before USF can save students money.
Students who attend SPC can also benefit themselves by taking a Student Life Skills (SLS) course. SLS courses help students identify their individual strengths, which helps students narrow down their options. All SLS courses also require students to complete an Individual Learning Plan (ILP). The ILP is a document that helps students determine which courses they need to take and what skills are required to complete each step toward their goal.
Many colleges have used the ILP to help curb the uncertainty and confusion that many students face. When a student has no goal or idea about what they are working towards, they are prone to wasting their time and money and eventually dropping out of school. “The point is for students to finish what they start,” SLS instructor, Roberta Newman, said.
Choosing a college major can be stressful, but there are ways to make the selection easier. If you are like many students and are not sure which direction to take, consider an SLS course and design an ILP. When a student thinks about his or her future, they should not be fearful of what they might encounter; they should look forward to the journey.
You can learn how to develop your Learning Plan at SPC with the help of student services.
Originally published on June 17, 2013.
Header photo from SPC’s Facebook page.