High school students ill-prepared for college


Most college students have limited amount of money and time.  So choosing the right major fresh out of high school is important. Switching majors most likely means wasted time in classes that are not needed and wasted money on books for those classes.  Therefore students need to utilize all the tools at their disposal to find the major that fits best.

Elizabeth Calderon, an adviser at Mesa Community College, also tries to help students choose what major is right for them.  “When a student says they are struggling to choose a major I ask them what they would enjoy as a profession,” Calderon said. “Then I look at their placement test results and transcript from other classes they have taken in college if they have taken any, and we go from there and try to decide what would fit them best.”

Students most of the time have their majors figured out by the time they see the advisers. “I usually deal with kids switching to universities and needing help moving their transcript or I help create their class schedule,” Calderon said. When students finally do ask the advisers for help it usually is because they are switching majors. “When a student is switching their major, but are not sure what they want to switch to I try to talk the solution out of them and make them come to their own conclusion,” Calderon said. The testing center is where students can test out of certain classes and see what they excel at.

Peggy Bonar is a staff member at the testing center.  One reason why students would be required to take a course placement test, is to give them perspective on their strengths. The placement test does not exactly help a student decide what major to take, but it does show what the student both excels and struggles at.  “Students get to take the course placement two times for free and 24 hours between takes,” Bonar said.

Mostly new students to college come to take the test, but every now and again someone who has been enrolled in college for a year or so on will come try and test out of a class.   “Most people are shocked at how hard the tests are, or they say how they have not seen certain material in years,” Bonar said. “Students never ask me for advice on their majors, but they do ask what their test results mean or show and that is when I let them know what they are good at and what they need to work on.”

Students who come to the testing center most of the time are required to take the test, so they are not enthusiastic while taking the test.   “In my experience students typically come take these tests because they are required to, not because they are trying to decide what their major should be,” Bonar said.

Lauren Skuda, a student at Arizona State University, enjoys her major.  “Obviously school is difficult and stressful, but I like what I am doing and look forward to graduating and starting my career,” Skuda said. Skuda is a junior majoring in business and is in the W.P Carey business program at ASU.  She thought about changing her major in the summer after her freshman year because of an economics and accounting class.  “I heard that macroeconomics and accounting were tough classes and they are, but when I was considering other majors none of them looked more appealing and interesting than the business program, so I stuck with it and I am glad I did now,” Skuda said.

When she was choosing her major in high school she knew that she wanted to do something involving numbers because she is excellent at math.  Skuda passed the math portion of the college placement test with flying colors.  “The math part was easy for me to do and I tested out of one of the prerequisite math classes, so that saved a math class one semester and that was nice,” Skuda said. “I always figured I would major in business at college I just never thought I would be so happy with it as I am right now.”

But not every person in college has that nice of an experience with their major in college.  Dylan Faggioni, a student at Mesa Community College, has changed his major twice.  He started his freshman year majoring in business and after his first semester of his sophomore year, he switched his major to communications.  After his sophomore year in college, he again switched his major to healthcare.

“Had I chosen healthcare as my first major I would already be at a university and I would have also saved a lot of money,” Faggioni said. His placement tests gave him no help or vision toward a major.  “I tested average, I did not test out of any classes, but I also did not have to take any classes under the 100 levels,” Faggioni said.

When he was registering for classes in the summer before his freshman year, he figured that business would be the most useful major, so that is what he took.  “Luckily the perquisites for business, communications and healthcare were for the most part all the same,” Faggioni said. “I had to take a couple of extra classes when I switched to healthcare, but it was not as much of an uphill climb as I expected it to be.”

The only regret he has is all the money he spent on books and classes that he did not need to take. “I am glad I took business and communications first because it helped me realize I did not want to pursue those professions,” Faggioni said. “Whereas if I took healthcare first I might have been tempted to switch to those majors down the road and that would not have been good.”  He was unsure going into college what major to take and the testing center did not give much aid; the advisers asked him a couple of questions trying to help him decide, but in the end, he just chose to take business courses.

Heather Brelo, a student adviser at Pinnacle High School, helps students send out transcripts and apply to colleges. She also helps students pick what major they should study.  “I help where I can when it comes to students picking what they are going to study in college,” Brelo said. “If a student wants my advice, I tend to look at their transcript and see what classes they thrived in and then ask them if that field interests them.”

Most students who see her and the other advisers at the high school have already decided on their majors and do not look for their help in that regard.  “When students do ask me for help deciding, I am honored and I take it very seriously because this is the kid’s future and the fact that they ask me for guidance means they really care, so I do everything I can to help them,” Brelo said.

Pinnacle has a system where all seniors meet with their guidance counselors right after winter break and they take a survey and search for scholarships that are available to them.  The survey is made up of questions that are designed to make students consider multiple majors.

Athletes pose a possible problem to the system.  “The athletes that do end up getting scholarships to smaller colleges might not have the major that the student is interested in. Or the school has the field but it is lacking major credibility,” Brelo said.

Kassie Shank and Noah Hayden are both students at Pinnacle High School;  Shank is a senior and plans to major in nursing at the University of Arizona.  “I have wanted to major in nursing since the beginning of my senior year,” Shank said.  Shank gets good grades on all subjects at school and has never thought about a second major.  “I have not put any real thought in another major because I am sure I want to become a nurse,” Shank said. “If I do end up wanting to switch my major I will talk to my adviser at school and my parents to see what I should do.”

She has not yet taken the placement tests for college nor has she spoken to an adviser about other options.  She is aware of the cost that switching her major would incur both financially and timetable wise.  “It is important to me that I graduate on time, so that I can begin working in the field as soon as possible,” Shank said. “Also I want to graduate and walk with my friends because we have been through so much together.”

Hayden, who is also a senior, is undecided on his major.  “I do not know what exactly I want to do yet,” he said. “But I will probably major in business at the University of Arizona. My older brother goes there and that is what he is studying, so I will probably end up doing that.” He also has not taken the college placement test nor met with a college adviser. He is aware that changing his major will slow down his graduation year, and cost more money.

“I want to go into business, it is a major that can lead to great job opportunities right out of college and that is what I want,” Hayden said. “But I don’t know; maybe I will change my mind before I graduate.”  He currently works at In-n-Out fast food restaurant.  “I know that I do not want to work there forever so I need to get my degree in something,” Hayden said.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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