Confessions of an undeclared student

By Saketh Vasamsetti, Columnist

vasamsetti-saketh_cutout As an undeclared student, I came into my freshman year thinking that I would better off than a majority of the other students who had already declared their majors.

Being undeclared gives you flexibility when choosing classes; undeclared students have no restrictions to taking classes required by a major. We can take anything from a Computer Science class to an Art class.

Undeclared students are free to attend most any career fair on campus; there are few fairs that are restricted to a certain major. And the Division of General Studies has a wonderful and caring group of advisors that truly help you figure your life out.

Above all, undeclared students are given many resources that cater toward aiding the large amount of doubt they hold when it comes to making a decision.

Despite these benefits, however, it is now three months into school and I pray to be anything but undeclared. Throughout these past couple months, I’ve faced multiple problems due to my title of being “undeclared.” For one thing, the orientation class that all undeclared students are required to take doesn’t provide useful experiences or useful advice.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

The case for many undeclared students is that they were not accepted into the programs they applied for and thus have to dive into the hell hole of trying to transfer into another program. The orientation class, from my own experience, treats undeclared students as if we have absolutely no clue what we are doing with our lives.

I’ve had to sit through multiple lectures that ensure me again and again that it’s okay that I don’t know what I want to do and that I have “the resources” and “the time” to figure it out. I’ve had to take multiple personality and interest quizzes that ask the same repetitive questions.

“Do you like using a lawnmower?” No I don’t … for the 3rd time.

I’ve had to sit through multiple videos that talk about what not to do when sending emails. For the strangest reason, the fact that sending an email from an email ID of “BigGuyOnCampusXXX” is a bad thing needs to be explained through a 5-minute video with incredibly terrible acting. You’d think they’d update the videos from 2000.

The worst experience I’ve had with being an undeclared student comes from the way people have treated me. Asking someone what he or she is majoring in is probably the most common way people start a conversation. If you want an easy way out of the discussion, just say you’re undeclared and voila … the conversation is dead.

It’s as if being undeclared is synonymous to being irrelevant. There have been multiple occasions where I’ve told people I am undeclared and they slowly drift out of the conversation as if they never noticed me in the beginning. It’s even worse in certain environments.

For example, I am currently trying to transfer into the University’s Computer Science + Linguistics program. In order to transfer, I am required to take multiple Computer Science classes and I am currently enrolled in CS 125 and CS 196.

For both classes, I have gone to other CS students for help on homework or just to ask general questions. I have very little CS knowledge so the questions I am asking are usually very basic, but they are still questions that I would appreciate an answer for. On many occasions I’ve received responses such as, “Are you serious?” and, “Shouldn’t you know this already?”

In programs as competitive as Computer Science, if you don’t know your stuff … good luck.

It has become a hostile environment where you either keep up with everyone else, or you give up altogether before you get torn apart by the “upper echelon” of your class.

While I can’t speak on behalf of everyone who is undeclared, I’ve spoken to many who feel the same way. Being undeclared doesn’t mean you’re screwed in college.

If anything, you’re going to be better off than a majority of other kids because you’ll be more determined to transfer into your preferred major than other students who are cruising through school.

The Division of General Studies is labeled as its own program but it doesn’t seem to receive any respect. But no matter what other students say, all students are equally valuable to the University regardless of their educational paths.

Saketh is a freshman in DGS.

[email protected]