Entering college undeclared is not unusual. In fact, it is the most popular “major” for incoming students at BU. As someone who was originally undeclared but has finally found what she loves and wants to study, here are some misconceptions that I hope to dispel and some advice to students who are still searching.
Misconception #1: Being undecided is a “bad thing”
Being undecided does not mean you are incompetent or indecisive. It just means that you have not found what you want to do–yet.
Unless you are entering college with many AP credits, most of your freshman year is often spent fulfilling the general education/core requirements before taking any higher-level courses specific to a major.
Like most students who are undeclared, Anna Stathopoulos (COM ’15) went into college not wanting to follow a specific track that she was unsure about and might regret it later on. “[When I was undeclared], I was able to get my core requirements out of the way so when I knew what I wanted to study, I could just focus on that right away,” said Stathopoulos. She is now a public relations major in COM.
As an undecided student, there is also more flexibility. “It gives me more time to figure [my major] out,” said Yuchen Fong (CAS ’17). Fong is currently undeclared because she wants to take the time to explore the options of the area that she is interested in.
Misconception #2: Majors are restricting
One of the biggest fears of choosing a major is the belief that the major you choose is the only field you can go into. Throughout secondary school, students are encouraged to think about what they want to study or what they want to be. The idea of having a label or becoming “something” sets up the idea that a major is restricting.
According to a study published from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2013, only 27% of students landed a job that was closely related to their major in 2010.
“It is hard to break students from thinking there is a linear relationship between ‘my major’ and what to do with the rest of my life,” said Dean Jarvi, the Associate Dean for Student Academic Life. Jarvi advises undecided students and students transitioning between majors.
If you cannot pursue a degree outside your interests, you can take those interests outside the classroom. What you lack in a degree can be made up in experience through activities, clubs, and internships. If you plan on going to grad school, it is also possible to continue a field of study that you did not major in but have taken courses in.
There are also many options to continue your interests within the structure of a major.
Many colleges offer more than just a major. Check out the courses of study on your school’s website or talk with an academic adviser. For instance, while it may seem more offbeat, if you are a student in CAS, an independent major might be right for you if your interests do not fit into one of the majors the college offers. An independent major allows students to design an interdisciplinary course of study.
If you are really interesting in pursuing more than one study, challenge yourself and take up a dual degree. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education blog, “The number of double majors is on the rise, particularly at the most elite schools where supercharged students want to do it all and where the ranks of double majors have swelled to more than 30 to 40 percent of all graduates.” Take advantage of the fact that the combinations of majors and minors is the same cost of a single major. The workload might be more with an overloaded semester here and there, but it will definitely give you the advantage in a sea of résumés when it comes to (fingers crossed) landing a job after college.
Misconception #3: You wait until the end of your sophomore year to declare a major
There really aren’t any deadlines for declaring, but there is a practical deadline, said Jarvi. “It’s a four year track. If you are going to make drastic changes that have to be done early on, like College of Engineering and Sargent [have] sequential requirements that you have to decide early…but there are CAS students who decide their major by their junior year.”
The other thing that can happen is “when a student declares a Psych major in their senior year of college and can only take all Psych classes [to complete the major’s requirements]…but it’s doable,” said Jarvi.
Misconception #4: A major is the most important thing
It is true that four years go by fast. It is also true that you cannot completely dismiss thinking about your possible major. However, if you do not have a major, a major should not be the main focus. Instead, you must be open to what attracts you.
“Focus in each course and focus on doing well because when you do well, you have this confidence, that will, I think, empower you when you choose a major,” said Jarvi. “You feel good about BU, and you feel good about yourself. It’s a much better position to be in to make a decision than when you don’t do well.”