Don’t discount DGS

By John Wong, Assistant video editor

So you’ve finally made it to the University of Illinois, gotten your living arrangements, tried getting to know your roommate online and joined one of those “UIUC Class of 2020” Facebook groups. But while most people also have a major chosen, some happen to be in a mysterious group of people in the Division of General Studies.

Obviously, you can’t major in “General Studies”. What’s going to happen when your relatives ask you what you’re majoring in during your time at college? The point I’m trying to make is that “General Studies” is a thinly veiled term to sugarcoat what we all know: You’re undeclared.

It’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that. The University website says that “DGS is designed to help you explore the academic landscape at Illinois while keeping you on track for graduation … incoming Illinois freshmen can apply to the University as undeclared.”

Basically, the school is letting you know that it’s totally okay if you are in DGS as an incoming freshman. It’s even okay to be admitted to it as a sophomore if for some reason you realize a little into your college career that you don’t want to major in Women’s Studies.

If you think about it, though, your friends who do have declared majors going into college are in a league all on their own. They basically have decided on what they want to do at the ripe old age of 18 and are set on studying it for the next four years – we’re not even going to talk about graduate school – just so they can receive a paper from the University to show to prospective employers and convince them to take a chance on them because they’re scholars in this one subject.

Joke’s on them, though. According to statistics from the National Center for Education, around 80 percent of students will end up changing their major at least once in their college careers. If you are in DGS, the first step is to recognize that you are technically not “behind” your friends who have actual majors.

You’ve got a lot of time to figure it out, that means you should go out and explore the different areas of interest at the University of Illinois. This is a world-renowned school. There are one-of-a-kind programs in countless colleges on campus, so make yourself at home. Take classes that interest you. Sometimes one class or an interaction with a professor can inspire you to seek out further studies in that department.

Outside of class, get involved with organizations that are based around your hobbies or interests. The University’s list of over 1,400 Registered Student Organizations guarantees there will be a group of people that share in your passions. These groups can provide valuable networks and experiences that will benefit you in the future, regardless of the major you end up choosing.

Before doing all of that, schedule an appointment to meet with a DGS advisor through the University of Illinois’ online appointment system. These professionals are there to make sure you explore all of your interests while keeping you on track for graduation. And if that’s not enough, the University also has a program where you can explore majors while traveling Costa Rica.

With all of this in mind, students entering the Division of General Studies should see it as a way to reach their full potential at the University, and not as a second-place finish behind all of their peers.

John is a senior in Media.
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