What Is Exploratory Studies?
Discover the major that best fits your interests, career goals
Did you know that nearly 75 percent of college students change their major at least once?
Determining what college major you want to pursue is no small decision. Even if you know what degree and/or career you want, you may consider completing some courses before declaring a major or applying to a specialized program.
The University of Cincinnati's Center for Exploratory Studies has been recognized by the National Academic Advising Association as a best-practice model for assisting undecided students. The program in UC's College of Arts and Sciences also has been featured in the New York Times.
To give students the opportunity to discover their best-fit major, every exploratory student is paired one-on-one with an advisor who works with them to create a highly personalized plan. Academic advisers guide students based on their strengths, career goals and interests. Advisors also connect students to campus resources, faculty and community partners for opportunities outside the classroom.
“We strive to provide students with intentional, strategic schedules so they can complete required courses while also exploring courses in subjects they are interested in,” says director of academic student advising Raven Flanigan.
The exploratory program is not exclusively for students who are unsure about a major. It also serves students who are interested in competitive or selective majors or those who have chosen a major but are looking to change.
This is ideal for students who are working toward the required credentials for their desired program admittance or students who want to explore alternative pathways.
The program is known as the one major students cannot graduate from. That is because the end goal for every exploratory student is to declare a major and graduate. However, exploratory students can still participate in co-op and internship experiences — in fact, it is encouraged. There is even a course dedicated to helping students find an internship or co-op experience.
Exploratory students are also encouraged to join a learning community made up of diverse groups of students and faculty who come together because of shared academic interests to interact in two or more university courses. UC offers over 100 learning communities that first-year students can greatly benefit from.
Special programs and courses
In addition to learning communities, UC offers several unique programs and courses that can help students make informed academic decisions.
The First Year Experience Program is an innovative, year-long program that helps first-year students successfully transition from high school to the university setting through seminars, academic workshops and courses.
College Success Skills is a course that focuses on vital skills acquisition, effective use of technology and campus resources.
Discovering UC (MLTI1075) helps students choose a UC major and includes faculty presentations from all colleges, as well as some fun, experiential learning activities.
In study-abroad programs, students can earn credit and gain global perspectives while traveling the world.
Career and graduate possibilities
Approximately 70 percent of all college-educated people in the workforce are not in careers directly related to their undergraduate studies. Although some fields do require a specific major, such as education or engineering, many fields seek dynamic employees who engage in critical thinking, effective communication, social responsibility and knowledge integration.
Whether you go on to graduate school or immediately enter the workforce, these types of courses—called breadth-of-knowledge courses (BoKs) at UC—help expand your marketability. Exploratory students are able to balance BoKs with other coursework that gets them one step closer to graduating with a degree they feel confident in.
Take it from a student
Sophomore nursing student Addison Lewis started out as an exploratory student her freshman year. Lewis frequently met with her advisor to go over a comprehensive academic plan—including back-up plans. As a result, she was able to take more classes than if she were to have started out in the nursing program.
“Exploratory helped me realize that I don’t want to just be a nurse; I want to go a little higher up,” Lewis said. “We were able to plan my sophomore schedule as if I was going to physicians assistant chool.”
Furthermore, she joined a nursing learning community that provided additional support.
“I made lifelong friendships, and it prepared me for applying to the nursing program,” Lewis said.
Now she teaches two nursing learning communities and plans to become a travel nurse before returning to UC to complete a doctoral degree.
Featured image at top: Desktop with people working on laptops. Credit/Marvin Meyer for Unsplash.
By Erinn Sweet
Graduate Assistant, College of Arts and Sciences Marketing and Communication
What Is Exploratory Studies?
February 28, 2023
Did you know that nearly 75 percent of college students change their major at least once? Determining what college major you want to pursue is no small decision. Even if you know what degree and/or career you want, you may consider completing some courses before declaring a major or applying to a specialized program. Housed in the University of Cincinnati’s College of Arts and Sciences, UC’s Center for Exploratory Studies has been recognized by the National Academic Advising Association as a best-practice model for assisting undecided students. It has also been featured in The New York Times.
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