Helping University Students Find Their Way with Major Maps
By Miguel Hahn
New accessible online career tool for help with program and career decisions
For students grappling with decisions about university programs and careers, the Queen’s University Major Maps can be a handy guide to help make the process a little less overwhelming. The maps support students before, during and after their degree. They can help prospective students choose a program of study, assist current students with identifying career options and potential learning opportunities during their degree(s), and guide graduating students as they think about ways the skills they developed at university can be transferred to the workplace.
The set of 44 visual maps for students provide integrated academic, co-curricular and career messaging specifically targeted for each undergraduate program area. Each major map lays out a four-year timeline, suggesting activities and strategies students can use each year to make the most of their student experience and prepare for careers after graduation. The maps can be seen online at careers.queensu.ca/majormaps. They are the first of their kind in Canada, building on the original Major Map concept from Georgia State University (gsu.edu/undergraduate/political-science-major-area-map/) with innovations in content, design, accessibility and layout.
While the maps are full of suggestions about careers or activities, they are not meant to be prescriptive. Students are encouraged to find their own unique path through education and beyond, including creating their own maps with the My Major Map tool that provides a blank template for interested students.
The usefulness of the maps extends beyond students considering or studying at Queen’s University. “I really can’t say enough about the major maps. As soon as I saw them, I instantly started using them. Even though they are Queen’s specific, they are definitely broad enough to be applicable for other uses,” says Andrea Fougere-Chou, Enrolment Management Advisor at Yukon College. “For students who have been out of school for a long time, or have never really known anyone pursuing a degree, the major maps are really helpful in helping them understand what is actually required of them, both in terms of course load and program requirements.”
Encouraging early involvement in career exploration is an ongoing goal at many universities. In a recent study from the Education Advisory Board, approximately 25% of undergraduates regretted not taking more classes to prepare for careers, starting job search earlier, and getting more experience before they graduate. These maps engage students in thinking about how to use all four years of their degree (not just the final semester of their final year) to develop skills and experience towards future career options.
Launched in January 2015, use of the online versions of the maps has already far outpaced the initial expectations, reaching 5,000 hits in the first month alone. Student response has been enthusiastic, commenting that the maps reduce their feelings of being overwhelmed by providing a sense of what to expect and a “roadmap to a well-rounded education.” The most common comment from upper-year students: “I wish I had this when I was in first year!”
Miguel Hahn works as a Career Counsellor at Queen’s University Career Services and is concurrently completing his Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University. Before moving to Kingston, he worked for seven years at the University of Toronto Career Centre in a variety of roles. The major maps project was led by Hahn and involved collaboration amongst Student Affairs & Career Services, Academic Departments & Advisors and students.
Pictures courtesy of Queen’s University Communications.