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Success Starts Here: Making major decisions

Success Starts Here" is a series of six articles that introduce new students to the UW-Eau Claire College of Business. A new article will be posted each week until the fall academic term begins.

Making Major Decisions

As a new UW-Eau Claire student, you will be making many major decisions throughout your college career.  One of the most important one is selecting an academic major. The College of Business alone has over 20 different major, minor, and certificate options. Which one(s) is right for you?

But there are other “major” concerns students have. Gretchen Hutterli, College of Business assistant dean, interviewed Kim Wellnitz, lead business advisor in the university’s Advising, Retention + Career Center, for tips students can use to explore major options and make other important decisions.

GH: Let’s begin our conversation by talking about majors. Many students come into the College of Business interested in business, but unsure as to their specific major. What advice do you have for students who are still making “major” decisions?

KW: Selecting a major is not selecting a job, nor a career. Some students pick a major because it's in a “hot” field, but what is in demand today may not be later. The best advice I can give students is to find a major that fits your interests and talents. Your values and lifestyle also come into play. For example, some careers offer the potential to earn more money, some are more family-friendly, and still others require extensive travel. No major is better than another one.

The main thing to remember is to explore, explore, explore and do this early, early, early. The more information you have, the better decision you can make. A good place to start researching majors and career options is the Career Services website. I also recommend that students meet with their academic advisor.

GH: What about second majors or certificate programs? Do they make students more marketable?

KW: I love this question. The answer is . . . it just depends. Sometimes it make you more marketable and is worth investing your resources in pursuing a second program, but not always. This is something to ask your professors, the employers who participate in Career Conference each semester, and chat with your academic advisor.

GH: Students and parents often asked me how long it takes to graduate from UW-Eau Claire with a business degree. Is it possible to do this in four years?

KW: It is absolutely possible to achieve this; in fact, your academic advisor is happy to help you plan accordingly. Most business students graduate in 4 to 4 1/2 years. The exception -- accounting majors, who may take a bit longer if they decide they want to sit for the CPA examination, as they need to complete 150 credits rather than 120.

While having a plan to graduate in four years is great, you must also execute that plan by passing all your courses, registering on time for future semesters, and remaining organized and focused.

That brings us to two other “major” concerns: studying and test taking. New freshmen frequently tell me that they didn't have to study in high school, and they could often retake a test to get a better grade. Does it work this way in college?

KW: I commonly hear this concern from new freshmen, too. College is different from high school in that professors cover course material much faster than your high school teachers. And retaking a test to get a better grade is pretty uncommon here. So if you want to do well in college, you can’t get behind in your reading or wait until the last minute to study for a test. As a general rule, I always tell freshmen they should study at least 10 - 15 hours more than they think they should. Delay gratification – do the task you don’t want to do first.  It is so easy to postpone working on an assignment in order to hang out with your friends. We want you to have fun but it is important to find the right balance between work and fun.

GH: What you are talking about is having good time management skills.

KW: Exactly! New freshmen should stick to a sleep schedule that includes at least seven hours of sleep per night. In high school you may have managed on a few hours of really good sleep each night, but that will quickly catch up to you in college. I also encourage students to create their own method of tracking assignments and tests, and scheduling time to study. Sticking to a schedule really helps and you will still have time for some fun. Treat school as your full-time job.

GH: Several times during our conversation, you mentioned the role academic advisors play in a student’s college career. Tell me how advising works in the College of Business.

KW: As a business student, you will have a team of people to assist you. Your academic advisor and faculty advisor are two of these resources. Your academic advisor will help you with course selection, and major and career exploration. He or she can also get you connected with resources on campus, such as tutoring or counseling services. You are required to see your academic advisor at least once a semester to discuss registration for the next semester, but we hope you reach out to us more than that. Your academic advisor is located in Old Library 2100. To schedule an appointment with him or her, use the online scheduling link on the Advising, Retention + Career Center website.

Your faculty advisor is a professional who teaches in your major area of study or some related business field. He or she can help you select elective courses in your major, discuss collaborative research opportunities, and explore career options. Many faculty advisors have worked in the business world so they have connections with alumni, employers and other business people. Most faculty advisors have offices on the 2nd and 4th floor of Schneider Hall. Their office hours are posted on their office door.

Finally, I encourage you to pay close attention to the e-mails sent to you by both your advisors. They will alert you to important events, deadlines, and other opportunities. The College of Business will also email you its weekly BizWire for students, faculty and staff. This e-newsletter, which will be sent to you every Monday, will keep you up-to-date on what is going on in the college and its departments.

GH: Any parting thoughts for our freshmen, Kim?

KW:  Welcome to UW-Eau Claire and specifically the College of Business. We all look forward to seeing you this fall when you are back on campus.

GH: You can meet Kim and the other business cluster advisors in person at the the COB New Freshmen Meeting on September 5. Check your email for more information.

Kim Wellnitz

Meet Kim Wellnitz
Lead advisor for the Business Studies Cluster

Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii

What I do . . . I work with my assigned advises, helping them plan for and stay on track towards graduation, answer their questions, and respond to their concerns. Additionally, I try to coordinate information and processes for the eight advisors in the Business Studies Cluster so we can improve our service to students.

When I am not working . . . I love to be outside, hiking, camping, canoeing, and traveling, tending to my yard, or grilling those wonderful summer vegetables from the farmer’s market. I am currently looking to adopt another dog; canines are the best!

People are often surprised to learn . . . I haven’t owned a television for over 17 years and I don’t miss it.

My best college memories include . . . studying abroad in Mexico; seeing the places I had only read about in textbooks, making life-long friends, and improving my Spanish speaking skills. It really opened my eyes and made we want to travel the world.

My favorite thing to do on the UW-Eau Claire campus is . . . working with great students and colleagues who make coming to work a joy. UWEC is a special place!

One item on my bucket list is . . . to hike the original Inca trail to Machu Picchu.

Introducing the Class of 2021! Meet your classmates, business faculty, staff, advisors, and student leaders, Tuesday, September 5 from 2-3:30 pm in the Davies Center Ojibwe Ballroom. Watch your email for more details.