The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Major options are limited and not specific, student says

4 min read
By DALEY JENNINGS Staff Writer From the moment I started college, my major was suddenly a definitive trait.

Kelly Barron | The Blue and Gray Press


Staff Writer

From the moment I started college, my major was suddenly a definitive trait. It’s what I was asked when I went home for the holidays, when I met other colleagues and during an icebreaker in class. A major is a focus that will hopefully lead to the passion or career you want to pursue for the rest of your life. Choosing a major gives you the comfort in knowing you’re on the right track to success, which is why it’s so disappointing when certain interests are generalized into one major.

Like many college students, I found my passion only after I came to college. While I knew that journalism wasn’t a major that could be declared at UMW, I thought for sure that there would be a viable option that was close enough for a replacement in the English major.

The English major can be taken with a concentration in literary studies or creative writing, which generalizes the English-majoring student population into two categories: the writers and the readers. This is a somewhat accurate analysis of the students, but it doesn’t make sense for the students who want to write poetry to be grouped with those who would rather focus on science fiction writing.

When it comes to my interest in journalism, I was lucky that there was a practicum class, which gives you experience in journalism. However, I was disheartened to learn that journalism was not a major.

Like the English department, there are only two options when majoring in art: studio art and art history. This feels like a haphazard sorting of the students, either giving them a performance-based major, or a knowledge-based major, with no care taken into what kind of performance or what kind of knowledge they might get out of the program.

Paying the monstrous amount of tuition only to have something as impersonal as “English with a concentration in creative writing” or just “studio art” makes it feel like it could be anybody’s diploma, not just mine.

There is an option to create a special major, which allows the student to pick and choose what classes would best substitute for the actual major. However, the procedure to declare it is exhausting, which seems to almost discourage students from going through with it. I almost went through with a specialized major myself last year, but it fell through before it could even get an advisor’s signature, through no fault of said advisor.

There’s also the concern of whether a desired major or minor can be completed in a four-year time span, and without financial setback. Clara Covington, a third year psychology major, decided her sophomore year that she wanted to minor in marketing, however it would have set her back for an entire school year or more.

The psychology major falls under the College of Arts and Sciences, whereas the marketing minor is in the College of Business. In order for Covington to begin her coursework for the marketing minor, she would have to take and pass the prerequisites required to enter the College of Business. If she only took business courses, it would take her a semester to complete the prerequisites, and another semester or two to receive the marketing minor, making it nearly impossible for her to graduate on time.

“The thing about it that made me decide not to do it wasn’t the extra work, it was that you couldn’t bypass some of it, like I already did statistics so I could provide proof that I did something equivalent and they would’ve put me through that course, but the other ones I still had to take,” Covington said.

Covington said that her advisor informed her that FAFSA would pay for her to complete the credit hours considered for a general Bachelor’s degree, as well as the hours needed to complete a declared double major. However, if she were to sign up for classes outside of her degree for either interest or experience, she was told financial aid would not cover it–unless it can count as a general education requirement.

While the perimeters of what FAFSA can and can’t cover are out of the University’s control, Covington seemed to have an unnecessary amount of obstacles to overcome in order to maintain the schedule she needed. Rather than minoring in marketing, Covington found it was in her best interest to explore other realms of psychology.

I suggest that there should be a major added for every individual aspect of a major, but I feel there should be more variety in what there is available for students to choose from.  Lumping everyone together into a category that doesn’t cover the extent of what a student wants to do for the rest of their life shows a lack of compassion for what’s best for the student. Adding variety to the curriculum would show that Mary Washington has a place for all of its students no matter what their interest.