In college, students often feel like they have to decide what the rest of their lives will look like right off the bat, but choosing a major freshman year should be optional — even a rarity — as opposed to an expectation.
In high school, students were told to worry about college. It was all about being in class so you could get good grades.
Specifically, you were expected to get good grades so that you could get into college. It didn’t even matter what the college looked like so long as it had the word “college” or “university” in the title.
There was no talk of jobs or skills or what needed to be done after completing college. In other words, there was no talk of what college is for in the first place.
It seems like people get into college and suddenly their need to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
We pick a major when we first come to college, meaning we’re supposed to know what our passion is, what job we want and how much education we’ll need. However, this involves a greater understanding of who we are as people, and there are too many factors to consider when we attempt to evaluate our academic dispositions.
Some say this is why students choose to be undecided their first year. They can choose to not declare a major, grow as a person through freshman year and pick a major later on in their college careers. True, this is a good model, but notice the word “undecided.”
This word has such a negative view; it implies uncertainty and an unwillingness to take agency over one’s own decisions.
That word doesn’t have to be negative, but one word causes many to feel obliged to pick a major immediately and feel more secure rather than wait a year to test the waters first.
According to a Pennsylvania State University article, 20-50 percent of students enter college as undecided and 75 percent change majors at least once. Picking a major requires a level of self-reflection and personal realization that a majority of first-year college students haven’t reached. So why are students even given the option to choose a major on the outset?
The first year of college should be a time of exploration.
Perhaps changing the term from “undecided” to something more positive such as “explorational” might help, but this is not the best solution.
Colleges should develop a model where students are advised against picking their majors when first coming to college.
As the statistics above show, for a majority of students, the first major they pick won’t be the one they stick to for their entire four years of undergraduate education.
It’s still important for students to pick a major sophomore year, as that’s when the classes for their major begin to gain momentum. Students shouldn’t be allowed to declare a major before that point.
In other words, it should be expected that a majority of students enter college as “undecided.”
Secondly, it’s important that exploration is emphasized during the first year of education and that students learn skills useful for any major.
Therefore, for those who know what they want to do on the outset but are forced to wait a year before making a choice, they can still learn valuable life skills that they can use in their major. This would make these outliers less likely to feel like their first year was just a waste of time.
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