Let’s start out the new year with a story, shall we?
Once upon a time, there was a recent high school graduate going away to his first semester of college at a university. His orientation day went great, and he signed up for all general education classes for his first semester. Come second semester, he did the same, because whenever anyone asked him what his major was, he would simply say “Undeclared.” Truth is this student did not have any idea what he wanted to declare, or even do with his life. A path moving forward was foggy and full of unknowns. So, fast-forward to sophomore year, he finally declared an English major because he liked to write, so why not? Well… after only a semester of that, he discovered writing was more of a hobby (because writing for deadlines wasn’t that fun.) So, back to square one. Well, Recreation & Leisure seemed interesting and sounded like a fun major! Well, after a few classes and research, he discovered the university only offered it as a minor. So, back to square one. Again. Well, upon going to enter his junior year of college, the student realized he had tied with a small time animation company he often did freelance work for, so he took a shot in the dark and declared a Digital Filmmaking major that required him to transfer schools. But, he finally had a major! Yay!
Well, upon [finally] graduating from college 2 ½ years later, he realized that, despite all that work he did and that senior project he completed and that degree he just received, filmmaking just wasn’t his cup of tea anymore either. So, he applied and got accepted to intern at Disneyworld to learn Business, Hospitality, and Leadership as he begins to apply for Master degree programs in Higher Educational Leadership.
The End. … well, not really.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, this fun little trip down memory lane is about yours truly and underlines one very difficult part of the college adventure for many students: What Major Should I Declare?!
It may seem like everyone but you have declared their major and already know their career choice, including their 5, 10, and 20-year plan within the first few weeks of college. And, for some students, it’s true: they already know exactly what they want to do. But, for a vast majority of students, the process isn’t so easy and they don’t know what to actually declare as a major. Half of them probably do not even know what they actually want to do in life. This is perfectly fine! As proof from my story above, it took me 4 ½ years of college and 3 years of being an RA to finally discover my passion in life was helping college kids (like you!)
Most colleges and universities give you 4 semesters/2 academic years (or some sort of equivalent) before you actually are required to declare a major. My advice: take every second of those 4 semesters if you feel you really need it! Don’t ever feel left behind just because you haven’t declared a major by the middle of your sophomore year and others have. The first two years of college usually focus on general education anyways, regardless if you are a declared major or not.
This brings up a very important point that I found troubled a very large amount of my residents over the years: if you are not 110% sure about the major you are declaring, be very careful about attending a school heavily focused on a particular set of subjects (trade schools generally fit into this category.) These types of schools tend to offer little to no wiggle room for changing your major and general education takes a backseat to their set curriculum. So, if you ultimately ever decide to transfer somewhere else later on, you may find a chunk of credits won’t transfer, so you will have just wasted time and money. If you are not 110% on declaring a particular major, I suggest attending a college/university that offers a flexible schedule that allows you to do your general education credits while also getting to experience similar classes in that major. If you like it enough, then transfer to that school that focuses heavily on it. Definitely speak with college advisors for further guidance if you feel like this may be the case for you.
If you are completely at a loss for declaring a major, look at your interests and hobbies as a good starting point. Say, if you love being near the ocean, maybe take an Introduction to Oceanography or Introduction to Recreations class. If you do photography as a hobby, maybe you will discover honing your skills and becoming professional is just for you! Generally, usually two things will happen: either you find out you love this hobby enough to major in it and make a career out of it, or you discover it is just better off being a hobby. But, that is the point of introductory classes, so you can experiment!
When you finally do major in something, be prepared for a little bit of a surprise: it is common for schools to add in a few required classes here and there that will have little to do with your declared major. This is because universities want you to try new subjects still, because you never know when that random Geochemistry of Crystalline Rocks class will just sweep you off your feet and away from that Business major you had declared. I have personally seen it happen quite a few times to friends, colleagues, and my own residents.
Lastly, something incredibly important to remember that most college students in general don’t seem to realize: Your declared major does not equal your future career! I am the biggest example of this point if there ever was one. While I may have declared and graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Digital Filmmaking, I immediately applied and picked up an internship with Disney after graduation to learn new subjects and perspectives in Business, Hospitality, and Leadership on top of my 3 years of experience being an RA to further develop a future career in Student Affairs in a higher educational institution, all of which has nothing to do with the major I declared and graduated in. It is not even close!
Choosing and declaring majors is hard sometimes, but also one of the more fun parts of college because you just never know where you may ultimately end up when it is all said and done. Take it from the guy who has taken the adventure. So, go out and experiment, have fun, and let that major problem of yours become a minor one.