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Navigating Majors, College Choices Through Experience: UF/IFAS CALS Tools Offer Aid

DAVIE, Fla. — For students and parents alike, picking a college major can be daunting.

Take Daniela Gonzalez from South Florida for instance.

In elementary and middle school, she liked playing with lizards, snails and other wildlife creatures that gave her access to the great outdoors. On career days, her parents would help her dress up as a zookeeper. They figured she had a passion.

Throughout the years, Gonzalez discovered other interests in architecture, psychology and accounting. Often a topic of discussion in her household, Gonzalez and her family looked for ways to help her find the right career track.

When it came time to decide a college major, she was unsure. Gonzalez was directed by a college recruiter to take an online majors quiz – one of several tools provided by some higher education institutions like the University of Florida’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) to aid in the process.

Today, Gonzalez is a freshman at the University of Florida (UF) pursuing wildlife ecology and conservation at UF’s CALS, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), the agricultural, natural resources and life sciences division of the university.

“The quiz helped me steer my focus to a specific major,” she said. “In the back of my mind I always loved wildlife. Now my dream is to own and manage a wildlife rehabilitation center.”

Gonzalez is like many students who do not know the variety of college major options available that fit their interests.

“When it comes to finding the right college fit, higher education institutions are developing tools like the CALS Majors Quiz to help students explore options and find majors meet their needs in more ways than one,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner.

In-person experiences are another helpful step in the college application process, particularly for students interested in competitive four-year schools. According to U.S. News & World Report: “Before choosing the best college to attend, students need to test the waters. Making a college visit and touring the campus can be pivotal in a student’s decision.”

At CALS, the NaviGATORing campus experience program provides visit dates in January, May, and September for prospective students. The program provides a full day of activities on campus tailored to each attendee’s area of interest. High school juniors and seniors get the opportunity to shadow a CALS Ambassador while learning more about the college and the UF admissions process (both for freshmen and transfer admission).
As part of the NaviGATORing CALS experience, participants sit in on classes related to their major of interest, learn about numerous campus organizations and activities, and explore the unique majors, minors and professional development opportunities in CALS. Students interested in the upcoming dates of Jan. 24 and Jan. 31 can visit: https://cals.ufl.edu/prospective/navigatoringcals/ for more information and to register by the Jan. 10 deadline. May dates will be available soon.

“The NaviGATORing CALS program was designed to show prospective students what it’s like to live a day in the life of a CALS student,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “With personalized schedules based on each participant’s subject area of interest, prospective students experience all UF and CALS have to offer. This includes how our more than 20 majors can assist in preparing them for a career in health care, natural resources, sustainability, food systems, human wellbeing, and agriculture.”

Students need to know what they want to get out of a college experience before stepping on campus. Turner encourages students to consider these three tips to help with the college selection process:
1. Think about how a college or university’s strengths align with personal career goals and skill sets.
2. Pick a college based on academic programs, extracurricular and hands-on learning experiences, location and faculty teaching excellence.
3. If students can imagine themselves at a particular institution, they are on the right track to selecting the school that will be a great fit for them.

To learn more information about CALS, visit: https://cals.ufl.edu/.

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