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College Plans: Part 1

February 25, 2017

 

Hello everyone! In this series we will be exploring some college majors. Professionals from a variety of backgrounds will share with us their thoughts on their majors and how their time at college influenced their current jobs. 

 

First we will talk to Rose, the director at Oregon Tutor. She graduated in 2008 from the University of Oregon. 

 

What was your major? Why did you choose this field of study? Did you have a specific career in mind when you started, or was it just a general interest?

 

My major in college was math. It was a very long road to get there, though! I started college with no major declared, intending to study creative writing and become an author. After the first term I suddenly realized how much I missed math and science classes! I excelled in math in high school, but didn’t realize how much I enjoyed it until I stopped doing it. At that point I declared a biology major, which I switched to mathematics when I transferred to the University of Oregon. I didn’t have a specific career in mind at first, but when I started working at the tutoring center of the university I attended sophomore year I realized how much I loved explaining math and helping other people understand it. I ended up getting a degree in mathematics with an emphasis in secondary education.

 

What do you do now? If it is in your degree field, what about your college experience best helped you prepare for your current work? If it is not in your degree field, would you change your major if you could go back? Why or why not?  What was the most challenging course you took in your specific field of study?

 

I now work as a math tutor. It is definitely in my degree field! The part of college that best helped me prepare for this job was the theoretical math classes. While I don’t teach high level theoretical math on a regular basis (my specialty is calculus!), understanding the background to the math concepts we use every day really allows me to approach ideas from different angles and find the way of thinking that works for each student. I also greatly appreciate the confidence and leadership skills that college instilled in me. All those classes that seemed unnecessary at the time, like the public speaking and history classes, have served to make me more confident in my abilities and well-rounded. This lets me relate to students on a variety of levels even if they have interests other than math, something I could not effectively do before college!

 

The most challenging course I took was not a math course, surprisingly. It was a computer programming class which was required for my major. This was an introductory level C++ class, and shouldn’t have been as challenging for me as it was, but I struggled! It was a very different way of thinking and at that point I had been in the abstract math mindset for too long. In many ways the class helped me swing my focus back around to applications for all that math I was learning.

 

What was one thing you dreaded going into college that wasn’t as bad as you feared?

 

Honestly, I was terrified of living in the dorms. I had never had a roommate before, aside from my little sister when we were younger, and I didn’t know what to expect. It was a big adjustment, especially since there were three of us housed together freshman year! However, it ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am still friends with both of my roommates from when I was 18. One of them even named their baby after me! I was afraid I wouldn’t make any friends at college, but it turns out I made some of the closest friends I have ever had. I think that being collectively thrown into a new situation really cements those first college friendships you find.

 

What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing the same major you did?

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help at any point in the program. Whether you need help registering for classes, figuring out your schedule, or with abstract algebra, it is so important to get the help you need before you are drowning in work. I waited far too long to get outside help with a class my senior year and it almost caused me to push back my graduation date. Mathematics is a very challenging major, and you are not alone in needing support. Another piece of advice I would offer would be to take the lower division classes seriously. Linear algebra, number theory, and all the 200-level classes offer a very important foundation for the upper division courses, and it will be very difficult to succeed in these higher level courses if you don’t have every nuance of the foundation figured out. Keep your notes from these classes and keep them organized and accessible; you never know when they’re going to come in handy!

 

Join us as we continue this series, speaking with people from business, biology, and many more majors!

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