The Final Step
So far we have discussed three of the Discovery! components: Exploration, Research, and Investigation. Today’s focus is Confirmation. This is the culminating point of your research, a place in which you can say “yes” or “no.” We consider Discovery! a process because it is one that provides stability but is flexible for you and the knowledge you have based on your experiences. Some students come in needing to explore themselves. Others know themselves well enough to narrow down some major options. Some come in confident in a career path but unsure of potential majors. With your differences in mind, we included the Confirmation component as a segment of the process which you are likely to use many times over as you discard potential paths and explore new ones. One of our current students, Carlos Salas, was kind enough to share is Discovery! process with you and explain how he has gotten to a point of major confirmation.
That decision that will stay for the rest of your career should be made precisely.
By Carlos Salas
I am Carlos Salas a sophomore here at Texas Tech University. I am currently undeclared with the goal of a Computer Science major and Spanish minor. I come from Cd. Juárez, México, where I was born and raised for the first sixteen years of my life. I have known my career goal for several years now. My inclination towards computers and technology began once the only computer at home was completely passed to me. I took many computer related classes in my high school in Mexico including a programming class. They were all very basic on their subjects, but they helped awaken more my interest in computers in general. I then thought of how much I would like to not only test and use software but to also create it. I was lost on how I could get there, and my only solution in my mind was to wait until I went to college.
My only year of school in the United States was in Denver City High School where I obtained my high school diploma. This, my senior year, was replete with things to get done for after graduation. The most important one was to apply to the schools I wanted to attend. I only applied to one school as I was confident on where I wanted to go; that school was Texas Tech University. I received a letter three to four weeks later notifying me that I had been denied from admission at Texas Tech. I was devastated at that moment. I did not tell my parents at the time, but I retook the ACT test to reapply. I was denied for a second time. I was able to come to Texas Tech through a program called Tech Transfer Acceleration Program (TTAP) in partnership with South Plains College. It allowed me to transfer the second semester to become a Texas Tech student. I was able to make this transition successfully even though my college algebra class affected my GPA negatively. These math struggles were my first alert that made me consider whether I should keep my decision of majoring in Computer Science or not.
As I said, my career goal was defined several years ago. The goal I am pursuing is to work at Microsoft as a software developer and who knows what else! My second semester I took a step back to see a broader panorama of what my possibilities are to get there are. Some friends suggested the major Management Information Systems (MIS), but I did not really pay attention to what they had to say. However, my advisor that semester mentioned it during a Discovery! appointment I had. That is when I really began to consider MIS as a possible major. That same semester I completed the FOCUS assessment to see what that assessment had to suggest for me. I was disappointed as it did not allow me to lean more towards a decision, but it confused me more on the possibilities of what I could do. I do not doubt that it is a great tool for many students, yet it was not helpful for my case. At that moment I decided that I would take the class Programming Principles I as it is the first class I could take related to my major, and that I would have that semester to decide whether I should stay in Computer Science or not. This current semester is the one I promised myself I would make that choice. The question I asked myself was, “How am I going to make this decision?”
I had no idea what I could do to begin exploring until I received an email from my advisor, Lilly Kilcrease, who was welcoming me to this new semester at Tech. I replied right away telling her about my situation. When she replied back, I immediately set a Discovery! appointment as she suggested. That meeting with my advisor helped me realize that there are other ways to find the major that will help me get to that career goal. That thirty minute appointment extended to ninety minutes of talking about the different possibilities that I have. In that time I also made the decision to add a minor. Some people say to me that it does not make sense to minor in a language I already speak. Yes, I have decided to minor in Spanish for which I took the CLEP exam that gave me enough credits to only take the higher level classes for my minor. Three upper level Spanish classes are needed for me to obtain that minor.
During that meeting Lilly suggested I talk to someone she knows who majored in Computer Science. As soon as I got back to my room I sent him an email requesting to speak with him some time soon. Once he replied, we met to speak about what my possibilities are with Computer Science or Management of Information Systems with Microsoft. He was very helpful. He made me feel confident about what I would get into with each major. I almost felt that I could make the decision at that moment. However, I decided to talk with my Programming Principles professor as well. I spoke with him briefly. His advice was simple but concise. The advice did not change my current decision, but it reinforced it. At that moment I just felt that I had to speak with one more person. Someone knowledgeable about Management Information Systems. One of my friends kept arguing that I should be an MIS major instead. I replied, saying that I will not agree or disagree, that I was currently exploring. To do this, and as my last step before taking that decision, I sent an email to my advisor asking for people I should talk to about the MIS major.
I made an appointment with a professor during office hours who is experienced in that field. I asked him what his point of view was by comparing both Computer Science and the Management of Information Systems majors. His main point was that I have more job possibilities with an MIS major than a Computer Science one, but that for the type of job I want Computer Science was the better option. After I had spoken with him more in detail about this, he turned me to a friend of his who also had office hours at the time. I talked with him, and the conclusion was the same. Everyone I have talked to at this time has told me the same opinion about what I want to do and what my possibilities are. Each person said it in their own way, but at the end the concept was the same.
This is my experience, and I want to use it to give you some advice on how to conduct a personalized major exploration process. There are specific tasks you can do. The FOCUS assessment should be one of the first tools that you should use to find a potential career choice and/or major. I will not recommend to only make a decision from this. I suggest you do something like what I did, talk to your advisor and ask them about people more experienced in the field of study you are interested or researching about. While speaking with these people, do not feel intimidated as they might all have PhD’s and that seems so far away. Be the moderator in the conversation, ask them questions like “Why did you choose this as your career?” “How much do you love what you do?” or “What do you suggest for someone like me who is exploring the different possibilities I have to reach my career goal?” Do not limit yourself to speak to only one person. I would recommend that you speak with two people from each major you are considering. Those conversations are what helped me the most. Do not let a class, a friend, or even a professor take you down on any decision YOU have to make. Always take the substantial part of every conversation you have. And if you are doing really bad in a class that is necessary for you major, take it again and put twice as much effort. If the class is going bad again, start doing this process again to consider other majors before it is too late. I have planned as of right now to declare my major by the end of this semester as Computer Science. I believe this major will help me the most to reach and continue on that career goal of mine. Even though I am having some rough time in my classes this semester and that this decision is not completely set in stone, I will make it as I know it will help me more in being confident in myself.