Don’t be ashamed of being in DGS
August 5, 2020
High school has always embodied that cliquey, socially awkward, still-finding-yourself stereotype. It’s common to anxiously await your college days, the days when you’re supposed to have it all figured out. You excitedly join class Facebook groups and follow every stranger on Instagram who has “UIUC” in their bio, hoping to get a head start on the social scene. And then, everyone starts comparing majors. They ask you what you’re studying. “Oh, you’re undeclared? Do you know what you want to do at all? Did you get rejected from the Grainger College of Engineering?” Suddenly, everything feels like high school again.
It’s hard to ignore the interrogatory voices unknowingly pressuring you to pick a major. But you, along with everyone else, have to remember that undeclared doesn’t translate to clueless. Say it with me, and repeat it like a mantra: Undeclared doesn’t mean clueless. Undeclared doesn’t mean reject. Undeclared means never settling.
The Division of General Studies is home to over 23% of incoming students. So you’re not alone. On top of that, studies say a large majority of students change their major at least once in their college career. Some might change their major five times. You’re actually ahead of the game. You’re not wasting time pursuing a degree in an area you’re only half interested in just to later decide you made the wrong choice and have to wait another year to change your major and start from scratch. I’m not saying switching majors is something to be ashamed of, either. I’m saying, it’s okay to want to carve out the perfect path for you and not settle for anything less than that.
Being a part of DGS comes with a host of tools to help you narrow down your interests. It’s never too early to meet with an advisor and discuss potential areas of study you might want to pursue. If you already have some ideas, an advisor can help you figure out what prerequisites you might need to fulfill in order to declare that major.
If you’re in DGS, you have an opportunity to explore your options more than many other students. Look at general education courses in a variety of subjects to see if you fall in love with something you may not know you have a passion for. One of my personal favorite courses was a general education course I chose just because it fulfilled two of my graduation requirements. It’s probably the only time I made a decision for the wrong reasons, and it actually changed my life for the better. Don’t worry about what looks easy; focus on what will help you grow.
You aren’t missing out on anything by being in DGS. You can still take the same classes as anyone else. You can participate in the same activities. You can be a James Scholar. You can be on the Dean’s List. You can be stressed out over midterms. Don’t let anyone else make you feel like your college experience is any less than theirs. Own being in DGS, and be proactive in DGS. Exude confidence, and just do you.
It’s okay to even wait until the last minute to declare your major. You’re a perfectionist. You’re the best, so you deserve the best. The best takes time. If you do, however, know exactly what you want to pursue from the very beginning, start networking early. Meet with advisors of the college of your interest to create a plan that will help you succeed in your goals. Keep communication open with those on campus who are there to help you, and always make sure you are still on track to graduate.
In a sea of college students who relish in newfound adulthood and seem to have everything figured out, it might feel like you’re lost in comparison. Maybe someday, DGS will distinguish specific pathways within the college for students to follow a more narrow trajectory down the path of their choice, and that might make you feel more like you have your two feet safely on solid ground. But for now, make the most of the resources you do have at your disposal, and talk to the people who are here for you. Be proud to be putting in the effort toward choosing the path that’s right for you.