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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks so much for reading, and have a great Thursday!
Miles of smiles,
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