College is a daunting place. It creates an existential process in which we must discover who we are and what we want to do with our lives. We often make difficult and important decisions while comparing ourselves to our peers.
I came to Geneseo as a freshman and felt pressured to figure out my life plans and interests right away. It seemed important to start my college career with a major and academic track already prepared and set in stone for my future.
Uncertainty and confusion were feelings I wanted to avoid. I thought that if I told people I knew what I wanted to do in my life, I would eventually start to believe in it. I spent two years working toward a major that was unfulfilling and left me stressed and disillusioned with higher learning.
This is a case supporting the “undecided” major. Although approximately 75 percent of college students change their majors at least once during their college career, students are often embarrassed to be in the group of undecided majors. For some, it looks better to change a major halfway through college than to spend a couple of years unsure of the future and be “unlabeled.”
Being surrounded by peers who appear—on the surface—to be confident and secure in their majors is intimidating; undecided does not seem like a productive and valid choice in comparison to our “prepared” classmates.
The undecided major is far from a waste of time, however. The first couple of years of college are meant for discovery—not only discovery of interests, but discovery of personality as well. We begin college at such a young age—we still have a lot of room for personal growth and maturing.
It is not guaranteed that the major one chooses on a college application will actually be a good fit in practice. If we convince ourselves that the major we chose when we were high school students is our destiny, we may not be open to other majors or disciplines. It is crucial to give oneself time to make these decisions to avoid clouding one’s own judgment.
Changing a major as a second-semester sophomore or junior can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing process. Filling out the forms is easy, but all the work afterward—counting credits and planning major-requirement classes—makes students frighteningly close to not graduating on time. For those who do not want to stay for extra semesters, summer classes and online classes are near necessities.
First-year students would feel more comfortable—and less pressured—in the intimidating college setting if they were required to be undecided their first semesters. Of course, college is different for everyone; some students really are secure and confident with their first choice of major and thoroughly enjoy it until they graduate.
In my experience, however, students may not realize their personal growth and change of taste until they explore multiple options. Sometimes taking the time to get to know ourselves and our interests before deciding on a major can prevent future regrets—and prevent us from realizing our real passions too late.