Beyond completing general courses, students may find it difficult in selecting a major.
According to Laura Baudot, associate dean of arts and sciences and associate professor of English at Oberlin College in Oberlin; Stephanie Kiba, assistant director of exploratory advising and academic support at the University of Akron in Akron, and Jennifer McCreight, director for the school of education, civic leadership and social change at Hiram College in Hiram, it’s common for students to be unsure of what to study.
“Most students come in with some idea of what they enjoy but they don’t have an idea of what they want to major or minor in,” McCreight said. “But if they are undecided, it’s a common place to be. In fact, a lot of students come to college thinking they know what they want to do but end up changing it.”
Baudot added, “It’s pretty uncommon for a student to be completely undecided but it’s not unusual. Very often, a student has an idea of what they want to do, but they change it in their first or second year. So, we encourage students to be open-minded and take advantage of all opportunities.”
Kiba said many students feel pressured to choose.
“When we talk to students, they often feel pressured to pick a major and feel they’re out of the ordinary for not having a choice,” she explained. “Expecting an 18-year-old to choose what they want to do for the rest of their life is often daunting and unrealistic as many of them have not had the opportunity to test their skills.”
To avoid uncertainty, the professionals suggested incoming students focus on what interests them.
“When you get to college, the world opens up in ways you’ve never experienced before,” McCreight stated. “It is important to take classes across a wide variety of disciplines because you’ll have experiences that surprise you in how much you enjoyed it. There is so much choice in front of (students) and that is a good thing.”
Kiba added, “It is better to invest the time and energy to identify what your interests are and your personality and how that translates into being supported in a career path, instead of looking at a sheet and picking something. In the best of all worlds, we want you to actually like your major.”
Baudot said students should consider subjects that will engage them throughout college.
“So, yes, it is important for them to think about how this will apply to life after college, but we like students to know that many majors have translatable skills in the real world,” she said. “So, I hope students will think about their major in a way they feel intellectually passionate about and something they feel they want to study in depth.”
Though it helps to choose a major before starting school, it’s also OK to choose after classes begin.
“They can definitely afford to figure it out as they go, besides courses like pre-med as a lot of course work gets done from the very beginning,” Baudot stated. “Otherwise, we encourage students to explore a range of fields in their first year, giving them time to think of what they’re passionate about.”
Kiba added, “It doesn’t hurt a student to wait to choose, in fact, it may be a benefit for a student to be exploratory or undecided if they really don’t have a focus area narrowed down. College is the time to learn about yourself and grow as a person. For those who are truly undecided, it is worth the wait to invest and make sure it is the right fit.”
If a student is stressed about the choice, the professionals suggest they take a moment to reflect.
“You’re here to explore and that is part of the beauty of a college experience,” McCreight noted. “What you’re learning will inform whatever major you choose and giving yourself freedom is very important.”
Baudot added, “It’s more of a question of whom they want to be and what their purpose is, and people tend to project that big question on the choice of a major. There is no need to feel that pressure. Their only job is to remain as open-minded as possible.”