Academic Success

Can a Minor Make a Major Difference?

What is a Minor in College?

Some students may find themselves wondering, “What is a minor in college?” Minors are additional subject areas that are secondary to students’ primary subject areas in their majors. Minors do not require the extensive study that majors require. Students can use minors to enhance their majors or to explore additional subjects that interest them.

Minors can provide specialties to majors, which can be useful to graduate students because graduate studies usually focus on narrower topics than do undergraduate studies. Minors can also complement majors; for example, a minor in business would complement a major in accounting. Graduate students can use minors to demonstrate multiple skills and interests and to make themselves more marketable to grad school admissions committees. Most minors require about half of the classes necessary for majors, so minors require an average of five classes within the academic department of each minor.

Having a minor in college can benefit students, but not having a minor will not hurt students. Instead of getting minors, students could take additional courses in a related subject or could even double-major. Not all schools offer the option of minors. If students would like to have minors, students should investigate the minor options at their universities.

Do You Think a Minor in College is Right for You?

First, find the best major to fit your needs. Then, investigate the minors available to you. Research what minors will best complement your desired major, and see if those minors are of interest to you. If passion is your reason for pursuing a minor in college, go with the minor that interests you the most. If you still can’t decide, look for something that could integrate your academics with real-life application.

Key to Student Success: Being a Prepared Student

Student success is something that is on every graduate students mind, especially considering that going to graduate school is a huge time and financial commitment. Students need to be ready and prepared to tackle this intense process, and the best way to do this is to prepare themselves as an undergraduate. While you are an undergraduate, you should master time management, study, and self-discipline skills because these skills will serve you well in graduate school.

After you have applied and been accepted to graduate school, be prepared for a minimum of 12–15 hours class time each week and 3 times as much study time outside of class. If you are not prepared to work hard and keep up, you can easily fall behind in graduate school, and student success will be unattainable. Gradate classes are often more focused on discussions and less on lectures. Consequently, students must be caught up on reading and other assignments, or they will fall behind.

What specifically are some of the ways to achieve student success in graduate school? First, you should always stay on top of your course materials. What’s the best way to stay caught up in class? Always plan ahead and stay prepared. You can stay prepared by knowing when your assignments are due and by reading ahead. Reading ahead of the assigned chapters will not only keep you up to date but will also allow you to make connections among concepts. Concepts in graduate school often build on each other, so reading ahead will allow you to make connections more quickly. Reading ahead also allows for some human error. If you don’t have time to read an assignment because of some unexpected circumstance the night before class, you will still be prepared for class.

College is a mental game. As with other games, being stressed, unorganized, and overwhelmed are all tickets to failure; however, you can prevent this from happy by organizing your time to make tasks seem more manageable. You can do things in a timely manner if you exercise self-discipline, which will eliminate the stress involved in procrastination and last-minute scrambling. Keeping your time under control will also keep your task list shorter and less overwhelming.

Attending class is vital to any education. Avoid missing class at all costs to stay prepared and to keep from falling behind. If you must miss class, be aware of the attendance policies, and email your professor before you miss. Ask classmates what information you missed in class, and borrow their notes. Make sure to be caught up before the next class, and remember that it is imperative that you receive all missed information.

Following the guidelines to student success laid out for you above may help you navigate your way through the sometimes difficult waters of graduate school.

The Major Decision

Deciding on a major is not an immediate requirement to get into college, but you will need a more specific field of study when you are preparing to apply for graduate school because graduate schools want to know what you would like to study in more detail. Additionally, you will want to choose a graduate program that fits your area of study or specialization, so you should decide what you want to study as early as possible in your academic career to help ensure student success. Deciding on the right major or field of study for yourself can be difficult; however, there are many things that you can do and there are many major or field of study resources that you can use to help yourself choose a major.

How to use Major Field of Study Resources to Help You

Several top major or field of study resources suggest that when choosing a major you should first examine your personal interests and skills. What do you enjoy doing and think that you could be good at? Make a list of your likes and dislikes, and narrow your list down to find something that truly interests you and that you might like to study. You can also choose a major based on other factors besides likes and dislikes. For example, you might choose a major because you know that you need a specific major to go into your family’s business, or you might choose a major because you want to pick a major with a profitable career path.

Choosing a major is a big decision, but there are a multitude of major or field of study resources available to help you. For example, you can discuss your major options with academic advisors who can review your academic profile and help you determine your academic strengths to decide what major might benefit you most. In addition to academic advisors, many universities also have counseling centers with career counselors who can provide vocational guidance by administering and interpreting interest inventories, such as the Self-Directed Search or the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator. Results from interest inventories can help you decide what really sparks your curiosity. Furthermore, professors can share their experiences with you and can help you decide if you might like their field. Finally, taking your required core courses can help you explore and make connections in a variety of fields.

Deciding which major is right for you can be a difficult process. However, you might enjoy exploring your options to find a major that is right for you, especially if you look for something that you could be happy making a career of or studying on a more detailed level in graduate school.

GPA Matters

High Undergraduate GPA can lead to Graduate School Success

Highly competitive graduate programs may require high grade point averages (GPAs) for potential students as a high GPA is a strong indicator of graduate school success. You can improve your admissions applications to graduate schools by maintaining a high GPA as an undergraduate. To maintain a high GPA as an undergraduate (and also a high graduate school GPA as well), you should remember the following:

Go to class.

Going to class may seem daunting and monotonous to some students, but most of the course material will be covered here. Therefore, going to class should be your priority, especially because every 1 hour in class equates to over 2 hours of studying. Going to class is more time efficient than is playing catch-up later.

Develop good study skills early.

Going to class is a big part of the learning process, but students must apply and practice knowledge outside class by developing good study skills. Developing good study skills will save you time and will dramatically increase the amount of information you can retain.

Pace yourself.

College can be overwhelming but will be less so if you manage your time wisely. You should schedule specific study times to alleviate the stress of your work load and to make it more manageable. Allowing yourself to be stressed is a waste of your energy. Instead of stressing about the things you need to do, you should direct that energy in a positive direction to get things done.

Do not underestimate your freshman year.

Your first year in college is about learning academic skills and adjusting to your new environment. Remember that even the classes you take during your freshman year count toward your GPA.

In conclusion, keeping your GPA high is crucial to your admissions applications for graduate school as a high GPA is a strong indicator of graduate school success. Top graduate schools have minimum GPA requirements that you must meet for admission. Exceeding minimum GPA requirements can distinguish your application from others. Striving for a higher GPA becomes more important in the competitive environment of graduate school, and these undergraduate tips will help you toward a higher graduate school GPA as well.

Developing Technical Writing Skills

Technical writing is a specific style of writing that often appears in the form of proposals, manuals, web pages, reports, newsletters, and other professional documents. It is commonly used in both undergraduate and graduate programs, so you should practice and develop this writing skill before you enter graduate school as a PhD student. Technical writers should consider the following as guidelines:

Be engaging. Write in third person with active voice and present tense.

Be logical. Organize your thoughts, and stay on topic.

Be precise. Use the most effective language to explain your ideas.

Be objective. Avoid opinions and biases.

Graduate students often use technical writing to explain quantitative results. Writing about quantitative results is necessary for research. The following are some tips to remember when you write about quantitative results:

• Present results using text, tables, or figures.

• Do not use text to present more than three or four numbers.

• Use words for whole numbers below 10.

• Use text to explain important information in tables and figures.

Practice makes perfect, so you should practice your technical writing skills. Keep a record of the mistakes you consistently make so that you can evaluate your progress and so that you know what to watch for when editing. You can also practice by changing your perspective. Instead of writing, you could try editing or researching the work of other technical writers, which will allow you to compare your writing with that of others and to learn about other types of technical writing. In addition, editing or researching other technical writers will help you to be aware of changes and to apply those changes to your own writing. Staying up to date on changes in writing style will allow your technical writing skills to evolve.

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