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Do you want to know what a major or minor is really like? Ask someone with first-hand experience, such as other students, alumni, and faculty. Most people are willing to share information about their experience and give advice. These informational interviews can give you a personal perspective to learn more about:

  • Classroom learning environment
  • Tips for getting started in a major/minor
  • Best and most challenging parts of a major/minor
  • Advice for success in a major/minor
  • Things you cannot find through research
  • Additional contacts to expand networking

Creating Questions

Develop a list of questions that you can’t find by simply doing research. Ask open-ended questions to generate discussion rather than questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” answers. Use the following list as a starting point, however you should personalize your questions:

  • What would be a good course to take or co-curricular organization to participate in to get a good sense of the major?
  • What does a typical assignment entail? Are most assignments individual or group projects?
  • How are most classes structured (i.e. discussion, lecture, or laboratory)?
  • What do you see as the best selling point(s) and the biggest challenge(s) for students seeking an internship or job with this major?
  • What will this major prepare me for?
  • What do students typically like most or least about this major?
  • What personality characteristics does a person need to be successful in this major?
  • What interests and skills does a student need to be successful in this program?
  • What motivates or attracts students to declare this major?
  • Are there other people that you would recommend I speak with?

Finding Someone

Students

Find students in majors or minors that interest you through:

Alumni

Find alumni who graduated with a major that you’re considering.

* Don't have a LinkedIn account? Now's the time to learn more and create one. Be sure that JMU is listed in your Education section.

Faculty

Talk to faculty in the programs you’re exploring.

Make Contact

You can arrange an informational interview by telephone or email. Make sure you:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain why you are contacting them
  • Mention how you found the person’s name
  • Ask if they are willing to briefly meet or talk with you to answer your questions

Tips for a Successful Meeting

Setting

The more personalized your mode of communication the better. In-person interviews are best, because you are able to receive both non-verbal and verbal communication. If you can’t have a face-to-face conversation, a phone conversation will still provide a platform for dialogue. You can still receive information over email, however it often results in a limited Q&A format rather than an elaborated conversation.

Dress

Informational Interviews are more casual than a job interview, however, the attire is still professional. The more seriously you take your appearance, the more seriously someone will take you.

Time

If your interview is happening in-person, be sure you know how long it will take you to get there, including driving, parking, and commuting to the building. Make sure to arrive early.

Duration

At most, request 30 minutes for the interview.

Format

You are leading the meeting. Shake hands, introduce yourself, and reiterate why you have asked to meet. Then ask questions and listen to his or her responses.

Follow-Up

Thank You Note

Email or write a thank you note within 48 hours of your interview.

Expand Network

In your informational interview, you may have received names of other people to contact. If so, follow up with those individuals and start this process all over again.

Evaluate Information

After your informational interview, take a moment to reflect and record your thoughts:

  • Would I still consider this major?
  • What did I like about what I learned?
  • What did I not like about what I learned?
  • Does this sound like a good choice for me? Why and why not?
  • What do I still need to know?

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