The reason that most students decide to go to college is for a single purpose: to earn a degree. But what if you are unsure about what you want to earn your degree in or what kind of career you want to have after you graduate? Sometimes students choose to enter college undeclared, or with an undecided major. While it may seem scary to go into college without a solid plan of what you want to do, there are benefits to applying before you decide.
Dr. Lisa Kerr, the First Year Experience program manager at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama (www.aum.edu) insists that sometimes the confusion students have over choosing a major is a result of the wide array of career options that are out there. She stresses that “there is a lot of concern among students related to what the job market will look like when [they] graduate.” While it may be easy for students to declare a major when they first enter school, an average student will change his or her major approximately five times before graduation. She explains that this is the reason why “some students prefer to be a little more certain before committing to a specific career plan.”
For some students, going into college with an undeclared major allows them to explore their options and discover what they are good at as well as what they enjoy the most. Dr. Kerr insists that there are several ways for students to make the most of being undeclared and that planning can start as soon as high school. She recommends talking to an academic advisor and career counselor at your school, shadow or volunteer with someone who is in a career that you want to pursue and talk with faculty members in classes that you like.
Researching your options by attending activity fairs and job fairs on campus can also help you discover what interests you. “The most important thing for any student to do,” says Dr. Kerr, “is to get connected to your college or university.” Making connections with peers, support service staff and academic advisors and professors is especially important for students who are undecided about their major.
Going into college undeclared is by no means going to negatively affect your college plan as long as you plan your time well. “There’s not a magical time when students should declare a major,” says Dr. Kerr, “However, there typically comes a time when a student runs out of ‘elective’ courses.” Graduating within four years is very possible for students who begin college with an undecided major; however, if you do not decide by junior year, graduating on time will prove to be much more difficult.
When the time comes for you to decide on a major, Dr. Kerr insists that you shouldn’t wait until you are 100 percent sure of the career you want before finally declaring. “I think there are very few students who are ever 100 percent sure of their future career, though there are some.” Instead, make sure that you have done all that you can to prepare, to explore your options and gain perspective into what you really want to do before finally making a decision.
“The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone,” says Dr. Kerr. “There are people at every campus that are interested in your academic goals, progress and success — find them and let them support and challenge you.” Going to school undeclared doesn’t mean you’re unprepared or don’t know what you’re doing. Instead, it can offer students an opportunity to discover what they really want to do and can open a whole new world of opportunities.
Laura Sestito is a senior at Nazareth College (www.naz.edu) and is a graphic designer and writer for NextStepU Magazine.