Myths about Undeclared Majors

*this is a companion piece to my other blog, “Why you should wait to Declare a Major”.

Until recent college history, the concept of majors has been highly superficial.

A QUICK HISTORY LESSON: During the rise of modern European universities during the 13th century, colleges were founded to teach a higher education to a singular company of persons. During that time, a university, as a whole, was only dedicated to one specific subject or taught the same specified range of subjects to all its students. Today, however, colleges offer a slew of subject courses that a student must choose from to become an expert. This process of choosing a subject course, a major, is stressful and can pressure students into deciding too early.

There are many misconceptions and myths about major declaration.

MYTH #1: undeclared students waste their time and money at college.

  • More than 20% of college students enroll with an undeclared major (source). Those undeclared students have more chances to explore the great opportunities provided by their college.
  • Taking a variety of general education courses exposes students to a wide variety of topics, giving them better insight into which subjects interest them and which do not. General education provides the formative foundation and transferable skills that are essential for success in any college major and any career.
  • Of all undeclared students entering college from high school in the Fall Semester of 2011 96% declared a major after the first year (source).
  • Motivation is key! If a certain class motivates a certain student to learn more, then perhaps he or she is on the right career path. One’s academic success will be greater if a student chooses a major in a subject that he or she enjoys learning about. This also allows students to love putting one’s knowledge to use after graduating college and when working at a career.

MYTH #2: students should stick with their declared major or else their graduation will be delayed.

  • Since many students rush into making the important decision of a college major, changing majors is a commonality – almost 70-85% of students change their major at least once during their college career (source).
  • Changing majors will not delay a graduation because many general education requirements and elective credit will carry over into most majors.
  • Entering college undeclared is wise and, if one knows if he or she wants to enter a certain field, will allow students to explore what interests them (source).

MYTH #3: undeclared students are uncommitted and lack long-term academic plans or career goals.

  • The term “undeclared” has acquired an extremely negative connotation of the past years, making it undesirable for students to even consider entering college undeclared.
  • Students may be undeclared because they have diverse interests or are excited about multiple fields of study.
  • A student’s indecision may simply reflect a high level of motivation for learning and involvement that produces a critical process of evaluating academic interests.
  • Undecided students may simply be methodical, reflective thinkers whose decision-making style prompts them to gather more information before making any long-term decisions.

I was undeclared when I first entered SJU. It took me until the beginning of Sophomore year to declare Communications Studies as my major. In my first year I finished almost all my GEPs and I explored a variety of majors to see what interested me. Now, nearing the end of my time at SJU I have one major and four minors. I have not fallen behind in my work and I haven’t even needed to take any extra classes. I love all my classes and I have a fair understanding of what I want to do after I graduate.

I am so glad I entered college undeclared. It has helped me find my passion that I could never do in high school.

So next time someone tells you they’re undeclared don’t look down on them. Ask them what their interested in and give them some suggestions. They will decide when it’s time.

Posted in: Advising & Support, Majors & Minors

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