In This Issue
Choosing a College Major

You've finished the college application process, you've been accepted to a university, you've hit it off with your roommate...but what comes next? How do you make the big decision of what to study? You've probably heard from several people that choosing the right major will have a huge impact on your life post-school and that if you choose incorrectly, you'll regret it later. With all this pressure, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when it seems like everyone around you has a clear idea of what they want to do with their lives. 
The pressure is real, there's no denying it. Yet it's crucial to not rush into a major without first giving it a lot of thought. There are many factors that should go into your decision about what to study, and this list is just a small sampling:

Talk to people.  Your academic advisor, professors, and TAs are here for several reasons, and one is to give you advice! You're not the first person who's been confused by college majors, so reach out to your support team. They can share their own experiences and those of others; talking to someone who's been through the same challenge and seeing how they've grown can be a huge morale boost.

Think big . A common misconception that students have is that there is only one job they can have based on their major (English = teacher, History = historian, Philosophy = Plato's heir), and that's just not true! If you love to read, consider majoring in English. Not only will you develop critical thinking and communication skills, you will be able to apply these skills to a variety of fields, such as law. Each major offers a skillset that can be applied to multiple disciplines, so don't discount a major without first looking into the skills it offers.

Take gen eds.  Colleges tend to require students to take classes from a variety of disciplines. While it may sound terrible to take another math or French class, taking gen eds is actually a great way to figure out which majors you like and which you don't. If your Bio 101 class makes you want to fall asleep but your Chem 101 class piques your interest, consider signing up for another class! Don't prejudge your gen eds before seeing whether any of them appeal to you. 

Consider your interests.  It's no secret that some jobs pay more than others. But majoring in something you don't legitimately enjoy will be painful. If you're passionate about dance, take some classes to explore it! You may discover that the teaching aspect of dance is something you can see yourself getting into, or perhaps you're enthralled by writing about the history of dance. Majoring in something that puts a smile on your face will make the next four years go by happily, and you'll feel more confident in looking for jobs later on. It's hard to pick a major without first taking some classes, so sign up for the ones that you're sincerely interested in!

Half of college freshmen end up switching their major, so you're in good company if you change your mind about what you want to study. The important thing is to experiment in your first two years. Take a bunch of classes, write down your impressions of each, and talk to people in those departments. In fact, you can declare yourself as an Exploratory or Undecided Major until you find the right classes that speak to you. You don't need to have your life figured out on Day One of college; all you need to do is keep an open mind.

February 2020
What is Writing Fluency and Why is it Important?
Parents often hear their student's teachers, speech-language pathologists, or educational specialists talk about  fluency  in reading, writing, or speech .  

Fluency  in any of these areas refers to the automaticity and accuracy in which these skills are used. Fluent language speakers can naturally and readily use words in a language to communicate their ideas, and fluent readers smoothly decode words in a printed text. Therefore, fluent writers can easily express their ideas on a page. 

Writing fluency is not as simple as it sounds; it involves many skills that need to be integrated and developed over time. For students with speech-language challenges or executive functioning weaknesses, breaking down the steps involved in writing fluency can aid them in articulating their thoughts more coherently. 
  • Generating ideas. First, writers need to have knowledge about a given topic, an opinion on a subject, a story they want to narrate, or a message they wish to covey. These ideas may be concrete or abstract, simple or complex. This also involves plot and character development. Using pre-writing techniques, such as brainstorming and free-writing, can help writers formulate their ideas.
  • Producing words to express their ideas. As writers begin putting words on the page, they have to keep in mind their audience and the purpose of their writing so they can convey the appropriate tone. These words must then be crafted into syntactically correct sentences, using transitions to connect their ideas. Strategies such as reading their work out loud can help them determine whether they have run-on sentences or awkwardly phrased statements.  
  • Keep paragraph structure in mind. Writers must make sure that their ideas are organized so that their sentences clearly communicate their ideas. If they are writing a story, they must include each element of the story arc. If it is an analytical paper, their analysis must follow their thesis. Creating a detailed outline can help writers plan out in advance what information will go in each chapter or paragraph. Receiving feedback from a peer, teacher, or parent can also help writers identify whether others are able to easily follow their ideas. 
Furthermore, within each of these skills are subskills that have to be considered. For example, syntax includes capitalization, punctuation, verb tense, noun-verb agreement, and sentence complexity; while writers do not need to have complete mastery over these subskills, they must be aware of them and incorporate them to the best of their ability. Writing fluency is an extremely complex process, and understanding this can help a writer challenge themselves to improve.

As with any skill, writing fluency comes with time and practice, and even proficient writers look to improve their fluency. They may want to produce more meaningful and descriptive paragraphs, or they may want to work on their ability to form a complex plot. To enhance writing fluency, there are several methods writers can take:

  • Be aware of strengths and weaknesses. In general, writing does not come easily to everyone, so it is important for writers to know what they excel in and what they struggle in. Reviewing previous pieces of writing and identifying common patterns of error provides writers with clear examples of skills they need to strengthen. 
  • Work with someone who specializes in writing. After determining areas of strength and weakness, it is important to work with an individual who specializes in writing. Tutors and teachers have a multitude of strategies they can offer, and they can provide real-time, constructive criticism. In addition, these resources can help a writer build crucial skills through targeted, structured practice.
  • Write, write, write. Many students only write when assigned a task for school, and this can impede progress. Writing fluency demands constant practice, so it is important for writers to put pen to paper often. Whether that is penning a diary entry, composing a letter, or using daily writing prompt books, it is important to write every day.

Writing fluency is all-encompassing and crucial for clear channels of communication. Building this fluency is a process that takes time and concerted effort, but it can always be improved upon. 

The key thing is to Think Organized while you write!