Mapping out academic goals can be a daunting task for students early on in their degrees. From determining majors and minors, to navigating possible electives and other program options, students in first and second year are faced with a sometimes overwhelming amount of academic decisions.
To help these students navigate their academic lives, Dalhousie’s Bissett Student Success Center (BSSC) has launched the Academic Exploration Series for the month of February. This series consists of virtual events, workshops, panels, advising sessions, and resources that will allow students to fully explore their program opportunities and make decisions about their remaining years at university.
Karen McCrank, director of Advising and Career Services, says this series allows students to explore their program options and reflect on what they want out of their time at Dal.
“Academic exploration is both an internal process of learning about yourself — your strengths, interests, skills, and values — and an external process of learning about what’s available to you for programs, co-ops, majors, minors, and research opportunities.” she says.
“This series will help students understand that their degree is just one part of what will determine their career. It’s also shaped by their interests, skills, work and life experiences, and the people they meet along the way. The important thing is to study something that you are interested in, engages and challenges you to learn and grow, and aligns with your goals and values.”
Previously, students looking to find out more about their program options could attend the annual Program and Major Expo, as well as the Academic Advising Week that took place in 2021. For this year, these events have been rebranded as the Academic Exploration Series. They’ve also been expanded to a full month to include more integration across Dalhousie’s various faculties and offer more helpful content and resources to students leading up to course enrollment in March. The timeframe also allows students to fully explore their interests and goals earlier in the month, before digging into the specific options for programs, majors, and minors later in February.
The series will also consist of workshops and panels that are student-focused and student-driven, so that students can hear from their peers about navigating important academic decisions.
“We want to encourage a lot of peer-to-peer learning so students can hear about other students’ experiences in different programmes. This can normalize the uncertainty and anxiety that can surround these decisions and inspire students to follow their interests, trust themselves and their decisions, and challenge any myths or misconceptions about the process,” says McCrank.
This peer-to-peer approach has proved beneficial for upper-year students who’ve already gone through the process of making program decisions. BSSC Peer Advisor and fifth-year Chemical Engineering student Mary Kayle Telen says that as a first-year student, talking to her upper-year peers helped guide her decisions and painted a picture of what to expect from upper-year courses.
“My advice is to reach out to upper-year students and/or professors in or outside of your program and ask them questions,” she says. “Hearing about a variety of experiences will typically help you in getting your answers about whether or not an academic program will be a fit for you. And, you also don’t need to decide on a single major, if you think that you are torn between two.”
Details about the Academic Exploration Series, including registration links and the event schedule, are now available. For additional information about academic advising, peer support, degree options, and more, visit dal.ca/advising.