Sarah Kyllo, Ohio University Proctorville Center
It was two weeks into fall semester when a freshman walked into my office during walk-in advising hours and sat down.
“Hello, what can I help you with today?” I asked.
“I need to declare a major,” she replied.
“Okay, so you’re undecided now, what are you thinking of changing to?”
“I don’t know. I just need a major!” she said, as she burst into tears.
I gave her a tissue and proceeded to tell her that it was okay to still be undecided, that declaring a major is a process and can be a time of exploration.
Undeclared, undecided, exploratory: whatever we call it, students often feel pressured to “be” a major, make a decision, clear a clean and direct path to a career, and become what they were “meant to be.” Choosing a major can be filled with anxiety, uncertainty, exciting discoveries, joy, and rejection. This sounds a lot like many other searches that students will face in their lives, from choosing a home, to where to live, to the process of dating. This led me to create the idea of the Top Ten Ways to Date Your Major as a way to relate the major selection process to something most students are already familiar with.
1. Creating your Profile
- Think about “who” you want to be instead of just “what” you want to be.
- What qualities would you like to have others say that you possess?
- What qualities do you admire in others?
2. What are you looking for?
- Just as in dating, selecting a major requires you to figure out what you like and what you need.
- If you had a million dollars, how would you spend your free time?
- Colleges can offer hundreds of majors. What are three to five majors that interest you?
- What is interesting about these majors?
3. Try a blind date
- There are a lot of different ways to try out a major before you commit.
- Take a class in that major, attend an on-campus event, take a workshop, join a club or student organization, contact career services to explore options in careers.
- Say yes to new experiences while you are at college and discover new ideas.
4. Finding “the one”
- Sometimes people fall in love early and get married; some people date a lot of people and may never commit to one person. The same is true of majors, careers, and jobs.
- There are lots of different paths to arrive at the same destination.
- There are lots of options, and more than one major may be the right “one” for you.
5. Breaking up, it’s hard to do…
- Even if you choose a major you think is the “perfect” one, it’s okay to still change your mind!
- Each class you take is an opportunity to learn, grow, and change. Don’t stay with a major you no longer want to be in. Your advisor can help you.
6. Don’t settle
- Don’t just pick a major because you are tired of not having one or feel pressured to have a major in a specific field.
- Do your research, keep looking, and keep exploring.
- You are not alone; there are many people who can help you in selecting a major.
- As in dating, sometimes it helps to get “set up”. Think of your personal network: who do you know in the fields that interest you? Think of your parents, friends, and their friends.
- Ask them abou their degree, what they like about their job, what they don’t like; this can be a good starting point to discover if this is right for you.
8. Think Globally
- The world has become much smaller through technology.
- Utilize online media to research jobs or internships.
- Think outside of the state or country: what are some jobs that make you marketable as a global citizen?
- Consider studying abroad for a semester; this can help to make you a global citizen and open doors you might never have realized were there.
9. What would your “dream” date be?
- Think outside the box and dream….what would your dream job be? If you dream of being a rock star, why? What about the job would appeal to you?
- How can that translate into a career?
- Do you value free time, do you want to change something, how do you want to be remembered?
- Declare your major after you explore the possibilities.
- Keep growing and changing while you are in college, while you work in your career, and in life. Change is the only constant and your major is a starting point for your future.
- Look back on your experiences that brought you here, look ahead to the future, and enjoy the ride.
As advisors guide their advisees throughout the process of declaring a major, it can be helpful to ask the right questions, as well as be a source of support. As with all major life decisions, it is a scary sometimes overwhelming process, but if advisors can frame it in a positive way, students may see it as an exciting journey, instead of a decision that makes them want to cry.
Student Services Specialist
Ohio University Proctorville Center
Cite this article using APA style as: Kyllo, S. (2014, March). Undeclared: How picking a major is like picking a life partner. Academic Advising Today
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