Undecided: When You Can’t Pick a Major
Maybe you’re looking ahead toward college but have no idea what you want to study once you get there. Or perhaps you’ve already started into college but haven’t declared a major yet. Though this can feel a bit unnerving, it may surprise you to know that 50% of college freshman are unsure of their major. And up to 75% of college students end up changing their major at least once.
Starting college as “undeclared” or “undecided” is not as big a risk as you might think. Obviously if you remain undecided for long enough you may end up wasting time taking credits you won’t need in the long run. But usually in your first year you’ll be focused on core classes anyway, so it’s fine to take your time when it comes to nailing down a major. Most schools don’t require you to decide on a major until some point in your sophomore year, meaning you have plenty of time to think things through and make up your mind.
As you wait, try to keep an open-mind about your future, recognizing that your plans will most likely continue to shift as you go. It helps to stay flexible and embrace the unknown as a puzzle to be solved and an adventure to be enjoyed! There are a few practical things you can do while you’re in the “great unknown” in regards to your major selection.
Try New Experiences. This “in between time” is a great season for risk-taking: seize volunteer opportunities that come your way, try to diversify your work experience, build stronger social skills, seek out people from various career backgrounds and do some job-shadowing, travel if you get the chance, and research possible majors of interest. If there are classes that pique your interest, consider taking them as an investment in your future. These types of things will provide you with clues into the kind of career you might enjoy, and therefore what sort of major you should choose.
Consult the Experts. Remember that academic advisors are there as trained guides to help you navigate your discovery process. Sometimes they offer career aptitude tests or even personality tests that can be helpful in sorting through your God-given gifting and the ways you have been wired. Academic advisors are equipped to help you figure out your unique life values and possible career goals, so don’t hesitate to seek out their input.
Do the Next Thing. You’ve heard the expression, “God can’t steer a parked car.” Resist the urge to stop moving forward! Even if you don’t know exactly where you’re going, trust that the process is going to work to your advantage. Sign up for courses that help you meet your general education requirements (this will likely encompass basic math, science, history and English classes, but may also include Speech, a foreign language, Intro to Psychology, Computer Science or Economics. Once you have completed your core requirements you may be in a better spot to wisely select a major.
Take time for reflection. Sometimes we don’t have direction in life because we haven’t slowed down long enough to really think. Or because we haven’t sought God’s guidance. If you know you fall into this category, please carve out some time for prayer, journaling and contemplation. Often this means getting away from the distractions of our schedule and other people so we can be quiet and hear God’s voice. He promises to give wisdom when we ask (James 1:5), so be bold enough to ask Him, and then look to see what He does next!
We put a lot of emphasis on choosing a major, and yet ironically, only 27% of college graduates are in a career that directly requires their specific college degree. This just goes to show that, more important than finding the “perfect major” is persevering and earning any college degree which is often the foundation for further learning or a springboard into a related (or sometimes altogether unrelated) career. The other good news is this: studies shows that students who begin as an undeclared major are twice as likely to persevere in their major once they have made their choice. So just relax! Rather than seeing yourself as “undecided,” be proud of being in this fun, exploratory season, trusting God to guide you into the major that’s exactly right for you in His perfect timing!