Being undeclared not always sign of lacking career path

ME Online

ME Online

By Andrea Cheng

Jaron Cookson, a freshman in LAS, has dreams and ambitions for his future career, but what makes him different from the next college student is his indecision in declaring a major.

Cookson, currently enrolled in General Curriculum in LAS, chooses his courses based on what he thinks will be helpful in determining his future major and subsequently his career. Although Cookson is unsure about his future, he draws his aspirations from his father, a police officer from his hometown in Springfield, Ill.

“Right now, I’m looking into the FBI and maybe the CIA, but there is no specific major with those careers,” said Cookson. “Criminal justice is my plan, but right now, I’m just looking for a major.”

Cookson entered the University without an idea of which courses would benefit him in the future. In an effort to overcome the difficult task in finding a suitable major, Cookson has sought guidance from the Majors and Minors Fair held in the Illini Union where a list of possible careers were cross-referenced to relevant majors. He has also talked to Hollie Heintz, an academic adviser for Weston Exploration and the General Curriculum Center about promising career plans.

“When I first got here, my two main majors I had in mind were speech communication and psychology,” Cookson said. “Over winter break, I thought about teaching math, and when I got back [to the University], I started talking to my advisor and decided to let that go,” he said. “Now, I’m back to psychology.”

An advantage for being an undecided student is having the option to explore potential majors without being committed to it. For Spring ’07, 3,469 students are undeclared and enrolled in General Curriculum – approximately 23 percent of students enrolled in LAS.

Cookson appears to be nonplussed about not having a major yet and is not too worried about declaring one in the future.

“Eventually you have to pick one,” Cookson said. “I guess I’ll just have to pick one that best fits. If not, I can keep searching and switch.”

Although this is a logical approach to finding a major, Cookson does feel pressure in still being undecided.

“Sometimes I feel rushed, like I need to declare a major. It seems like classes don’t have a purpose unless you have a major,” he said. “I definitely would prefer having a major and having a reason to take the classes I’m taking.”

Being undecided is a temporary stage for an opportunity to discover courses that could eventually become potential majors. Just this past semester, Cookson has taken two psychology courses, speech communication, calculus, and a class in the Recreation, Sport and Tourism program.

At the moment, the likelihood of psychology being Cookson’s future major is high because psychology is interlinked with criminology, a subject related to the police force.

Cookson recognizes the importance of finding a route to take and is ready to map out his future.

Number of students undeclared:

College of Business: 754/3,008

College of Education: 279/699

College of Communications: 156/852

College of FAA: 8/1,935

College of LAS: 3,469/15,121

Source: www.dmi.uiuc.edu