To Declare or Not to Declare…That Is the Question

The benefits of picking a college major and beginning your college education undecided

Importance of Picking a College Major After Starting Your EducationMaybe you know exactly what you want to study once you begin your college education. Maybe you have already begun selecting courses that will help you obtain the degree that you want. And maybe you already know what you want to do once you finish college. But what if you don't? What if you have no idea what you want to study in college or what you want to do after graduation? Relax! You're not alone.

If you end up choosing a major in college when you first enter school and continue with that major throughout your time at the college or university, you may find that you are able to obtain more than just a degree in one area. Because these students can plan their college career from the beginning, they are often able to meet their degree requirements earlier in their college careers. Therefore, many students find themselves obtaining two college majors, a minor, or a certificate that may help them later in their careers. Students may also take this time to become fluent in a second language or explore a variety of other courses.

While this is the case for some students, not all students arrive at college knowing exactly what they want to major in or what they want to do later in life. Actually, it is quite common for students to change majors at least once during their college career. Once students begin taking classes, they find that other courses or career paths may be right for them.

But what if you have no idea what you want to major in? Don't worry—many students begin their undergraduate careers as "undecided" or "undeclared." Once you begin taking classes, an academic advisor or a career counselor can help you decide what is best for you. Sometimes colleges or universities will ask you to select a school—such as Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Business, or Education—within their institution before you begin, but if it is necessary, you can switch schools after picking a college major.

Many students worry that being undecided will hurt their chances of getting into the college or university of their choice. However, many schools assure students that majors have no impact on college admissions. For example, The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ) tells students that "designation of an academic major is used primarily to assist us in matching your expressed academic interests with appropriate academic advisors." In addition, nearly 20 percent of UPJ’s incoming freshmen enroll as undeclared/undecided students.

And don't worry about falling behind; many undeclared students take general academic requirements—such as English, history, or a social science—throughout their first and second semesters before choosing their major in college.

The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong way to go about picking a college major. There are advantages to a college-bound student deciding on a major before beginning college, but there are also advantages to waiting until you have had time to explore a variety of courses. The most important thing is that you do what is right for you. And remember, once you begin your college career, there will be many people to help you along the way, including your professors, an academic advisor, a career counselor, and your peers.


This article was written by Trisha Webb

Trisha Webb is a former staff editor for Trisha writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.


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