Why It’s A-Okay to Be Undeclared in College

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I know it’s been a while since I’ve written a strictly college-related blog post, but I recently volunteered as a mentor at an event for undeclared students, and I really wanted to share my thoughts about the topic here as well. Plus, I put together this preppy spring look, which seemed like the perfect outfit to wear while talking about school! Without further ado, here’s my story of how I chose my majors—and why it’s completely okay to be undeclared.

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I entered college undecided and proud of it, as you may recall from this blog post from my freshman year. Most of my friends knew exactly what they wanted to study (or so they thought), but I had absolutely no idea… I’ve always been a very curious person who loves learning, so it was really difficult to pick just one area of study from my university’s long and interesting list of disciplines. My main goal was to spend my freshman year exploring! Trying new things and seeing how I liked them! Coming from a high school with a very cut-and-dry curriculum, my freshman year of college was the first time I really got to dabble in areas of study I had never tried or even heard of before, which was a huge part of the appeal of college.

Once I finally started my freshman year, I immediately felt the pressure to declare a major. So many people were already extremely focused on following a set path, with their course schedules meticulously planned up until graduation. Additionally, my school is on the quarter system, which I think exacerbates the pressure of having to feel like you ‘have it all together’. Since we have to register every 10 weeks, I always felt so stressed during the registration period because I had no idea where to go next—What classes should I take this quarter? What can I do to explore without getting behind?

My biggest fear was feeling like I wasted time or money. As much as I wanted to explore my options, I also did not want to keep taking electives my freshman year with the risk of getting behind or, even worse, not finding a discipline I loved.

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My best piece of advice for anyone undeclared is to focus on common curriculum first and to really take advantage of it. I know all schools are different, so this may not be as applicable to some than others… But thankfully my university requires several common curriculum courses from two main categories, “Society and Culture” and “The Natural and Physical World”. These are the classes I focused on taking my freshman year, and I made it a point to select them from as many different disciplines as possible. I took a course in Psychology, Anthropology, Gender Studies, History… None of which I liked, as it turned out. But I realized that learning what I didn’t enjoy was just as valuable as finding my interests.

I took my first Criminology course fall quarter as one of those requirements and really enjoyed it, largely because of the professor. I decided to take his next class in the winter quarter, too, and then he asked me to work for him as his research assistant. That’s when I knew Criminology was the right place for me. I ended up declaring the major the spring of freshman year, and I haven’t looked back!

Now, as a junior, I declared a second major in Geography, again because I took it as a common curriculum course my sophomore year and really loved it. Some people know exactly what they want to do before entering college and stick to their very specific plan throughout their four years, which is great. But others feel like they have to declare a major right away, leading them down a curriculum path that they oftentimes realize they don’t enjoy… Had I entered college declared, I probably would be majoring in Biology or Chemistry with no idea of what else was out there, and I would be at a loss.

So for anyone who is reading this and has no idea what you want to do in your college career, don’t sweat it. Yes, you will feel a tremendous amount of pressure to choose something right away. And yes, it’s hard to want to take the time to explore when it feels like everyone is moving so quickly ahead of you. But you have to get comfortable with not knowing. You have to be okay with answering the “what do you want to study?” question with a simple “I don’t know yet.” I can’t tell you how many times I had to say that my senior year of high school and freshman year of college… Some people act like it’s shameful to not know, but I promise you, taking the time to explore to find something you really love is way more beneficial than rushing into something you’re going to hate. And just in case you need a little more convincing, here are a few statistics for you:

  • At my university, 1 in 3 students changes his or her major at least once (and this percent is even higher at some other schools).
  • According to this study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 27% of college graduates get a job related to their major.

When I declared Criminology, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with it post-graduation—I just knew I loved learning about it. And the truth is, I still have no idea what my plans are after college! Woo-hoo! I’m ready to explore even more once I graduate.

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The most important thing to remember is to feel unashamed in being undeclared and to get comfortable with the unknown (we all know Covid has given us a lot of practice with that). If you’re a college student struggling to ‘figure it all out’, I really hope you found this post helpful!

And, in unrelated news, this week’s linkup is live below—I still haven’t thought of a good name for it, but I would love to see all your most recent blog posts nonetheless.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Thanks so much for reading, and have a great Thursday!

 

Miles of smiles,
Grace

 

Pink Collared Shirt: JCPenney, $20, last worn here | Beige Sweater: Nordstrom Rack, $18, last worn here | Cropped Flared Jeans: Express, $25, new | White Mules: Rebecca Minkoff via Saks Off Fifth, $70, last worn here | Sunglasses: Loft, gift, last worn here

7 comments on “Why It’s A-Okay to Be Undeclared in College”

  1. I am going to have my oldest read this. Right now he is only in 9th grade and exploring what he likes wirh his electives (rhey have some cool ones) and rhis applies to him now. He is taking ap psychology next year as well as an engineering class. This year his elective was unmanned aerial system which i thought he would love but he like meh!
    Just linked up! Thanks for the reminder!!
    http://www.chezmireillefashiontravelmom.com

  2. Grace, I really appreciate and admire your approach to college! These are really valuable tips for anyone who is uncertain which direction to take. I was quite the same as you when I started college (in 1992…eeek! That’s a long time ago), I had no direction or guidance and started out as an accounting major. Ick. Can you imagine me as an accountant?! Then I switched to art and architecture. Turns out that I am not very talented. Haha. Eventually I ended up declaring English as my major just as mother said I should do from the beginning. Then I ended up with a second major in Philosophy which led to a minor in Religious Studies due to overlapping classes for Philosophy. After that, I got my law degree while working in the financial services industry. And now…I am a stay at home mom, writing a blog! We never really do know where our paths will take us! Great outfit, by the way!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

  3. I very much love your preppy spring look and I love your attitude about college. It’s the conversation-starter that everyone uses once they know what college you’ll be attending. “What do you plan on studying?” or the similar questions. For some people, the answer is a quick and easy, but, for other people, the question brings with it a moment of unease. Many students enter college as undecided and even change their major at least once before graduation. ”What are you passionate about?” is a question everyone should ask themselves before exploring the options. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva 🙂 xxx

  4. When I went to college, I must have changed my major three times. I was adamant that I wanted a degree in something that I could get a job in after I graduated. The problem was, I wasn’t good at any of those subjects, so like you, I picked a major I really enjoyed studying and was good at, then I minored in secondary education as a crutch so I at least could get a teaching job when I graduated. I ended up not using my degree professionally as I got married and had kids right after college, but I sure used it in my volunteer life.

  5. You’re so right, college is one of the best times of your life and it’s so important to explore your different interests x

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