College Planning Expert’s Tip – October

Undecided about your major?

So, you’re undecided. You get a little jealous twinge when you hear a classmate or friend talk about how they’ve known since the sixth grade they’ve wanted to be an archeologist or study math theorems. But picking a college major can be fun and help you learn more about yourself. Here are five tips:

Don’t declare randomly

It’s a myth that undecided students who say they’re interested in “women’s studies,” “classics,” or other less-common majors on their college applications receive preference over the hundreds of hopeful English and business majors. So don’t think that just randomly declaring a major will help you.

Without backup, the declaration doesn’t do much to woo college application readers.

Kathy Lindsey, associate director of admissions at Middlebury College, confirms. “Sometimes we might say, ‘Oh here is someone who has an interest in such-and-such.’ If we do that, we are also looking for other evidence that the student has pursued interest in such-and-such. That they’ve done a summer internship or have done a project. …We’d consider it only if it had that continuity.”

Go undeclared, and explore

Lindsey says declaring a major during the admissions process isn’t necessary for her college.

“We’re a liberal arts school, and liberal arts programs champion a broad education,” she says. “If you are at a school where you apply specifically to the colleges, some students might have to know their majors. But we don’t do that. We want students to spread out their coursework.”

Use your first year in college to take requirements

Tara Joyce is an undecided freshman at Elmira College. “I don’t know what my major is right now, and I don’t think I have to decide until my sophomore year,” she says.

Meanwhile, Joyce is enjoying experimenting with the different kinds of classes she can take, and is focusing her energy on completing her core requirements.

“I’m getting a lot of things out of the way, like my freshman writing seminars, but I’m also taking different kinds of classes that might lead me to a career. Right now I’m considering psychology. I took an intro class, and it was very interesting.”

Don’t stress; you’ve got time

Most colleges don’t require students to declare a major until halfway through sophomore year or at the end of sophomore year/beginning of junior year.

Lindsey sees this as a very good thing: “You can discover your passion that you didn’t know existed.”

Learn more about yourself

For Jamia Wilson, deciding on her college major was a process that allowed her to more deeply consider what she wanted to do for a living and what she wanted from her job.

“I went through three different majors in the same department: broadcast journalism, then print journalism and finally public relations,” says Wilson, who graduated from American University.

Her motto? “Go where you want to be, and the resources will follow.”

Practical tips for picking a major

• Do a job shadow.
• Ask your teachers for recommendations.
• Research your heroes and what they studied.

Article by Liz Funk (courtesy of

~ David Mammano, Campus Calm’s College Planning Expert, publisher of Next Step Magazine

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