Coleman: Choices Fair proves not to be a cure-all for indecision

Kehley Coleman, Staff Columnist

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As you’re probably aware, especially if you’re a first- or second-year student who is still undecided, the annual Choices Fair took place this past Friday, Oct. 5 at the Veale Convocation, Recreation and Athletic Center. Tables staffed by professors and students representing various majors, minors, programs and related clubs covering all disciplines from English to electrical engineering were set up throughout the indoor track area.

The participants answered students’ questions and distributed informative material on their course of study, as well as provided sign-up sheets for interested students to receive more information in the coming months. Targeted especially toward first-years, who are required to attend for their Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship (SAGES) class, the Choices Fair markets itself as a chance for students who haven’t declared their major to work toward making this important decision.

Being exactly such a student—deeply undecided regarding my major, interested in several different branches of engineering, the physical sciences and even some of the humanities—I found myself looking forward to the Choices Fair. I arrived at the fair promptly at its 12:45 p.m. opening, armed with a list of questions that would help me both complete a required writing assignment for my SAGES class and leave the building knowing a little bit more about what I wanted to do with my college years.

I did get my questions answered, but I found my experience at the fair wanting in the latter category. While the Choices Fair certainly did help me discover a few new opportunities at Case Western Reserve University—an astronomy minor, for example, is shockingly accessible if you’re majoring in anything requiring introductory physics—I didn’t find it particularly helpful in deciding what course of study I want to undertake.

This is in no way the fault of the individuals running the tables. Everyone I talked to gave excellent answers to my questions and provided me with helpful information even when I had no specific questions. Rather, the Choices Fair was simply not the sort of event I needed to help me make my decision.

Just because the Choices Fair wasn’t helpful to me or students in my situation does not mean it isn’t helpful at all; it is entirely possible that some students who were struggling to choose between a few major interests were able to ask specific questions of the representatives and make a decision based on the answers they received. It doesn’t even mean that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did enjoy learning more about various programs offered here at CWRU.

But personally, this sort of fair environment was not as good a solution as I had hoped it might be for my problem. Yes, I got to ask a few questions of various departments, and yes, I found the answers informative. But for every question I asked, there were several more I couldn’t, due to the stretching lines of other first-year students eager to talk to the various representatives. Even for the questions I did get to ask, I couldn’t provide the necessary background for a complete answer by conveying my personal experiences and desires to the representatives. An impersonal two-minute conversation while someone is in line behind you just doesn’t give you the chance to form a proper connection with the representatives.

Furthermore, there were some programs I was interested in but not knowledgeable enough in to go to the fair with prepared questions that could be answered in a short time frame. At these stations I received general information that was somewhat helpful, but the environment didn’t allow me enough time to really determine what I personally might be able to get out of the programs.

In this way, the Choices Fair did more to hurt me than help me. It gave me a basic introduction to several more courses of study that I found interesting but was less helpful in narrowing things down. This resulted in my list of potential majors becoming even longer than it was before. Discovering all the things I could do during my college years was enjoyable in the moment, but I’m finding after the fact that knowing about all these opportunities only increases the amount of stress I feel about not yet having decided what I should do.

Ultimately, while the Choices Fair wasn’t the cure-all for my indecision I had hoped it might be, I still think I’m better off for having gone. While attending may not have helped me and students like me make our final decisions, it did provide exposure to more programs and opportunities we might be interested in. I can now research into these different fields and set up one-on-one meetings with various faculty members and advisors to have more personal discussions regarding my major.

In the meantime, I can try to accept and enjoy being undecided for a little bit longer as I take classes across various courses of study to see what I find interesting.

Kehley Coleman is a first-year student considering majoring in chemical engineering. When not in class, she can typically be found reading trashy teen fiction and/or in rehearsal for something or other.