The University of Massachusetts Amherst

SBS Pathways to Success

At a Communication Department alumni-student networking and advising session, an alumnus shows a student how to navigate LinkedIn

The UMass College of Social & Behavioral Sciences prepares you for lifelong success.

College is about much more than attending class, striving for good grades, and graduating with a job offer or graduate school plans. That’s certainly part of it, but there is so much more to a fulfilling and successful college experience. That’s why we created SBS Pathways.

SBS Pathways is an integrated approach to advising, curriculum, and resources designed to guide you through the development of your own goals and vision of success as you:

  • Explore your academic, personal, and professional interests with a sense of inquiry and purpose
  • Pursue academic, co‐curricular, experiential, and professional development opportunities that build your unique SBS Pathways through UMass & beyond
  • Engage in ongoing self‐reflection as an integral component of growth & learning
  • Learn to recognize, communicate, and apply the vital competencies you develop while at UMass
  • Build concrete skills and habits of mind to thrive as you transition into college and pursue meaningful work or further study upon graduation

SBS Pathways is a framework for understanding student success as purposeful engagement with the academic, experiential, and professional development aspects of your college education. It’s also an orientation to student support that offers you multiple forms of guidance as you pursue and integrate the various dimensions of your own personal pathways.

Support Through Your SBS Pathways, And Beyond

We know college is challenging, whether you’re learning the ropes in your first semester, developing research and analytic skills, navigating a new culture during study abroad, or deciding how you’d like to apply your knowledge and talents as you take your first steps into a rewarding career. SBS Pathways is built on the understanding that no one is born knowing how to “do college,” so we offer you a coordinated system of support to help you make informed decisions that enable you to maximize your education, both in and outside of the classroom:

Academic Advising. Whether you’re an SBS Exploratory Track (ET) student or in an SBS major, you have access to professional advisors, and in many cases, peer advisors, who can help you to envision your SBS Pathways and develop a plan of courses and experiences that will bring those pathways to life. Faculty members you get to know through courses and other activities will become mentors as you plan your pathways.

Special Support Through Key Transitions. Whenever you step into a brand new experience – like beginning college, starting an internship, or studying abroad – you’re faced with a world of new terminology, expectations, and possibilities. That’s exciting, but it can also be a bit daunting. During those times, we send you SBS Pathways e-tips, a series of mailings with advice and thought-provoking questions to take the mystery out of new experiences and help you maximize your opportunities. We also send you monthly e-tips throughout your sophomore year to help you plan for the possibilities ahead.

A Portfolio Approach. SBS Pathways supports you in taking a portfolio-based approach to your experiences by collecting, reflecting on, and drawing connections across your academic, experiential, and professional accomplishments throughout college. You’ll develop a keen sense of your own skills, knowledge, and areas of interest; an ability to articulate your unique strengths to employers and graduate programs; and the tools (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile) you need to communicate the value you bring to organizations beyond UMass.

SBS Pathways-Based Seminars and Courses. Your First Year Seminar (FYS) gets you acclimated to college and helps you to envision and plan for your pathways ahead. Junior Year Writing teaches you the conventions of writing within your major and prepares you for upper level seminars. As a junior or senior, you’ll take an Integrative Experience (IE) course in your primary major where you’ll reflect on the insights you’ve drawn from your previous coursework and apply them to real-world issues. In many departments, capstone experiences involve you in independent research or other projects.

Community Support. Many SBS departments have clubs where you can meet with your fellow majors to pursue shared social, intellectual, or professional interests. If you’re an ALANA or first-generation college student, the Academic Fellows Program (AFP) offers community, resources, and leadership opportunities.

Career and Professional Advising. Through one-to-one professional advising, career workshops, online tools, internship support e-tips, faculty internship sponsorship, and our SBS job shadowing program, you’ll find that professional development doesn’t begin at the end of your studies – it’s an ongoing process of reflection, experience, and support that evolves throughout your college career.

Developing Your SBS Pathways

Sonya Atalay teaching

One of the keys to college success is being proactive from your first year forward, through purposeful course planning; making early connections with faculty, advisors and alumni; laying the groundwork for professional development; and grabbing every meaningful opportunity to develop your skills, challenge your thinking, and extend your learning outside the classroom.

As you design and make your way through your own SBS Pathways, you’ll cultivate an ever-more robust repertoire of skills and insights within each of these dimensions of your college education:

Academics. The core of your college experience involves using your coursework to explore your interests, dive into your major, and broaden your insights by tapping into offerings across the curriculum. Your academic path isn't about checking off requirements or thinking one semester at a time. It's about using requirements and electives to develop your own evolving understanding of the important issues, theories, and ways of thinking in the discipline(s) you choose to study.

Co-Curriculars. Joining clubs, participating in sports, serving on house council, and volunteering on campus or in the community keep you in balance and help you to meet like-minded people. Plus, when it comes time to apply for internships and jobs, you'll need to present yourself as an interesting and engaged person who has done more than just coursework. Think about what interests you, what matters to you, or what you'd like to get good at. Then explore possibilities on Campus Pulse. Whatever organizations you decide to join, watch for opportunities to gain leadership experience and develop new skills. You'll gain confidence, experience, and connections that will engage you now and prepare you for jobs and internships down the road.

UMass Student helping grade school child with homework

Experiential Opportunities. Take your learning outside the classroom with experiential opportunities that bring your studies to life - like study abroad or domestic exchange, working as a research or teaching assistant, civic engagement and service learning courses, and doing a thesis or other capstone work. Don't think of these as "extras." They're an integral part of your education - promoting personal growth and academic success - and they need not cost more than you pay for tuition. 

Professional Development. You can't spend your college years just taking classes and expect to get a great job at the end. Professional development doesn't start when you need a job. It starts now. That doesn't mean you need to know the career you want after college (even if you think you know, you'll most likely change your mind). It means you should have your eye on opportunities to: develop skills that will serve you well in any career (like public speaking, writing, interpersonal, and analytic skills), explore what's out there, connect with alumni, learn job search strategies, and build experience by asking for greater responsibility or new projects at work, seeking leadership positions in clubs or volunteer organizations, and laying the groundwork for internships.

Preparing you for Meaningful Work in College and Beyond

SBS Pathways guides SBS students as they pursue academic, experiential, and professional development opportunities, equipping them with an impressive array of competencies needed for careers in business and nonprofit settings, graduate study, and meaningful engagement in civic life. Competencies are more than just the skills needed to perform a specific task. They involve the ability to think critically, creatively, and analytically and to apply skills and knowledge strategically across a range of contexts. As they pursue their own SBS Pathways, SBS students build the following skills and competencies and learn to integrate, communicate, and apply them in various settings. These are the very characteristics employers consistently say they would like to see more of in their applicants and employees:

  • Proficiency in Field of Study
  • Critical Thinking
  • Written Communication
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Research & Technical Knowledge
  • Global/Intercultural Perspectives
  • World Language Skills
  • Civic Engagement
  • Information Literacy
  • Creative Thinking & Intellectual Curiosity
  • Ethical Reasoning

Related Links

Pathways Stories

Pathways Resources

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