Kent State’s Exploratory Program Helps Undecided Students Find Their Way
Kent State University students are finding success in the exploratory program designed for students who have not settled on one of nearly 300 majors offered at the university.
Daniel Berger and Celeste Dawson were like most Kent State students coming to college – excited, nervous and a little bit confused. In general, they were not sure of their exact academic paths.
They were not alone. In 2014, more than 600 students were undeclared or “exploratory” as they came to Kent State. Students who choose not to declare a major or college before arriving on campus are placed in the University College, where they are connected to advisors and mentors to help them make decisions about their majors and future career plans.
“Making the decision to start college as an exploratory student allows the student time to explore their interests in a guided process,” says Nicole Kotlan, director of the Exploratory Advising Center.
In their first year at Kent State, Dawson declared a major in human development and family studies and Berger declared a managerial marketing major. Both are set to graduate in four years.
To help them settle on a major, students are assigned an academic advisor who helps them create an Exploration Action Plan. The action plan is made within the first month the student is at Kent State and is updated until the student declares a major. The action plan includes a career navigation course, career counseling, mentorship, student coaching and more. The action plans are customized for each student for the best experience possible based on a career readiness inventory.
“I really had no idea what I wanted to do,” Dawson says. “My interests were all over the place, but I knew I wanted to do something with people. I had mentors who helped me work through so many things every week, specifically major exploration.
“A lot of my concern going into college undecided came from my family,” Dawson continues. “I didn’t want to waste my time or money or not be able to graduate on time, and I felt like I wasn’t going to be on the same level as the rest of the students. Once I got here and realized all the resources I had, those preconceptions disappeared.”
First-year exploratory, pre-major students have the opportunity to live in the EXCEL (EXplore, Career, Education and Leadership) Living-Learning Community, which is a residence hall exclusive to exploratory students in Lake Hall. Berger and Dawson both lived in the EXCEL Living-Learning Community.
“I really enjoyed being around other students who were in the same situation as me,” Berger says. “It felt nice not being excluded for not knowing what I wanted as a major.”
“Everyone kind of formed this community, and we all connected over the fact that none of us knew what we wanted to do,” Dawson says. “We were all kind of fighting the same battles together. It was a really great sense of community, and that helped me to not only find my major, but also to feel connected to Kent.”
Dawson took advantage of many of the resources available to exploratory students in the EXCEL community, including advising, meeting with mentors and career counseling. All three are resources available to first-year exploratory students to help them discover the right career paths.
“Exploratory students in the EXCEL Learning Community have on-site access to EXCEL Peer Mentors,” Kotlan says. “The EXCEL Peer Mentors support exploratory students in success with special programming and scheduled office hours to visit and chat.”