Ever since I was in the eighth grade, I knew what I wanted to study once I got to college. I wanted to major in journalism. I wanted to write and travel the world.
Or, at least, that’s what I thought I was going to do.
When I entered college I did indeed major in journalism, but during my sophomore year, I began to really question if this major was the right fit for me.
I thought maybe I was really meant to major in international business, which I believed would almost guarantee me a job after graduation. Or maybe I was meant to major in Asian studies and pursue a more creative career path.
In the end, I stuck with journalism and my passion for writing. But if I had started out as a university studies major — Temple’s term for being undeclared and taking a variety of classes — in the first place, I might not have had to go through so much anxiety while picking one.
“I think students feel under a lot of pressure to declare their major before they’re ready,” said Neal Conley, the director of the Academic Resource Center. “Students want to declare because they’re nervous that if they don’t, they’re not going to graduate on time.”
This definitely isn’t the best way to choose a major and future career path. Entering college undeclared is a more constructive alternative. It allows students to take exploratory classes and feel out different subject areas. It allows them to be more secure in their major choice when they pick one. Students should take advantage of the freedom provided by being undeclared.
“Sometimes people have this idea that they’re afraid to declare because they’re going to get it wrong,” said Ruth Ost, senior director of the Honors Program. “So they go and declare something because they thought that was going to get them a job, when they just need to look around a little bit.”
For many students, the thought of starting college without a major seems like a waste of time, almost irresponsible. However, some schools, like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Indiana University Bloomington, require students to be undeclared during their freshman year so they can take their time choosing a major.
In Fall 2016, 2,400 students were undeclared. That same semester, 2,700 students changed their major, Conley said. Out of those 2,700 students, 1,400 changed into an entirely different school.
In the end, changing to a completely different school could be more detrimental to a student rather than starting undeclared.
Renee Johnson, a freshman university studies major, is currently deciding what branch of math or science she wants to pursue in the College of Science and Technology. Johnson said she knows other students at Temple who planned to pursue a science major and ended up changing their minds.
“They want to be bio pre-med, and then after taking a few classes they’re like, ‘Maybe this isn’t what I want,’” Johnson said. “They had an idea and now it’s changing.”
Being undeclared helps prevent students from forcing themselves into the wrong major, only to end up changing it after they take a handful of classes. Students can take up to 60 credits while being undeclared, which is the equivalent of being a sophomore. Using these credits in the General Education Program allows students to explore different areas of study, hopefully allowing them the time to find one that sticks.
Being undeclared allows students to take classes, like Gen-Ed requirements or electives that interest them, without putting them behind on their track to graduate.
I hope other students who may still be struggling to pin down their major seriously consider spending some time undeclared, before they end up choosing the wrong major entirely.
Erin Yoder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.