Entering College Undecided? Tips for Finding Your Path
By Julie Kampschroeder on March 18, 2020
You did it! You committed to a college that you feel is your best fit. You’re excited to start. You’re thinking about how you can prepare. Then, the inevitable question from a friend or family member comes: “what are you planning on studying?”
It’s not that you haven’t been thinking of this all along, but you’re still unsure what you’d like to study. You’re not the only one in this boat. An estimated 20 to 50% of students enter college undecided, according to surveys. Of that same number surveyed, 75% changed their major at least once before graduating.
So, while some of your peers may seem confident in their choice, it’s likely that they’ll change their major at some point during college. If you’re still undecided about your college major, you should know you’re not alone. I’ll break down what entering college undecided means for you, and provide a few tips to help you find your path.
Will Applying Undecided Hurt my Chance of Admissions?
A few selective universities require students to choose a "college" - for example, the College of Arts & Sciences - during the application process. Students who are set on a major click their option with confidence. Other students may use this opportunity to strategically choose a college that gives them a greater chance of being admitted, with the option of switching majors in the future. These universities typically have a maximum number of slots per "college."
However, the vast majority of universities do NOT require you to choose a major, especially Liberal Arts schools who prefer you to be exposed to a variety of options. So, at most universities, it is a safe assumption that your admission chances will not be hurt by entering college undecided. There is a possibility that you will miss out on small departmental scholarships by entering college undecided; however, you should be allowed to apply to these scholarships as an upperclassman after you declare a major.
Physical Therapy, Pharmacy, and Architecture examples of three majors that are best entered as a freshman because of the sequencing of the program. These majors have small admittance rates at the graduate level, so entering directly as a freshman is a good idea. Students begin taking classes within the major during their first semester. These courses are a pre-requisite for the next course, meaning one course must be taken and passed, before taking the next sequence course the following semester.
Tips for Finding Your Path to a Major
Be proactive in researching who you are, what brings you happiness and make efforts to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Enjoying how you spend half of your adult waking hours in employment leads to less stress, healthier relationships, and better overall personal health.
Assess your values:
- What is your goal income level?
- How many hours per week does your ideal job entail?
- How important are benefits including health care/retirement/educational to you?
- Is flexibility important to you and what does that value mean to you?
- What is your ideal work and living location?
Know your aptitudes.
- If you are a Scoir user, completing your YouScience assessment will help.
Evaluate your soft skills:
- What are you communication strength and weaknesses?
- How are your time management skills?
- How are your problem solving skills?
State your personal career goals.
- How will this major help you achieve your goal career?
Determine your impact on the world.
- How do you see your career helping you make an impact on the world?
Visit Your Campus Career Center During Freshmen Year & Beyond
Visit this office as soon as you arrive on campus if you enter college undecided. They can assist you in your journey of choosing a career. You should also feel comfortable emailing or calling a college's career center before attending to ask for details on how they can help you as a future student. You will have to declare a major by sophomore or junior year. www.bls.gov can give you detailed information on each career and its employment projections.
Meet with Your Advisor
Make frequent appointments with your advisor and discuss course sequences for a variety of majors that appear on your search list from the Career Center.
Utilize Office Hours
Visit your professors during office hours for the courses you enjoy freshman year. Ask their advice on career pathways using the content from class.
Join a variety of career clubs and organizations on campus in order to meet upperclassmen who can give you advice on mistakes to avoid, internship and volunteer opportunities, and professors to take in their field of study. If you are still in high school and considering your options, you can utilize Scoir's integrated virtual campus tours, student videos, and social links to active student-run clubs so you can get a great feel for life on campus.
Find Real-World Connections
Actively seek out people working in the career fields of interest. The Alumni Office on campus may be willing to give you graduates to contact and ask specific questions.
The end goal is to become a happy and productive member of society! In order to meet these goals, you must be active in the career search process. There is no better time to start than the present!