Don’t rush to declare a major early on

Many graduates say that college goes by in the blink of an eye. One minute, you’re an eager freshman, and the next, you’re graduating and thrown into the real world. 

Because of the seemingly short time spent at the University, the need for a speedy answer to the questions “What should my major be?” and “What can I do with that degree?” may creep up on you. 

Experts say that while there is no need to rush into picking a major or career path, students can start thinking about it as early as freshman year.

“We try to encourage students to keep an open mind while choosing and exploring careers and utilize a variety of people and resources in order to make this decision,” said Zelda Gardner, senior assistant director at the Career Center. “They should get excited and motivated.”

Gardner said that while there is no specific time when students should choose their major, they should start exploring their options as soon as possible. She recommended that students meet with their academic advisers and career counselors at the Career Center starting freshman year. 

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“As you identify with your interests, it helps to compile a list of professional opportunities which can help you make a plan of attack,” she said. “Having conversations with people (about your interests) can help you think of options to consider.” 

Gardner also recommended getting involved in clubs and volunteering opportunities on campus, as well as part-time jobs and internships, to gain experience and market themselves to future employers.

“Students should get out there and be exposed to as many things as they’re interested in,” Gardner said. “They should see how they feel in different environments.”

Terry Cole, Jr., Office of Minority Student Affairs graduate mentor for DGS, starts helping students pick their majors by asking them what they are passionate about outside of school, with questions as personal as what kind of movies they like to watch.

“That’s what will help them to get the most out of their college experience,” he said. “I push kids to pick a major or classes to line up with what they’re interested in and enjoy doing.”

Cole, Jr. thinks that the time to focus on a career path depends on the student, since each student has unique interests.

“It’s always important for students to keep in mind that one of the reasons to go to college is to find a career that’s not work,” he said. 

He urges students to steer clear of saying, “I know exactly what I want to do when I graduate.” He said that he doesn’t think it’s fair for a 18- or 19-year-old student to have to decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives yet because they haven’t had enough experience. However, he said that they should have an idea for the future somewhere in their minds. 

According to the U.S. News and World Report’s article “5 Ways to Pick the Right College,”  it is advised to wait until college to pick a major. The article suggests that students try taking diverse classes during their freshman and sophomore year before officially declaring their major. By junior year, students will likely have a better idea of their interests and what they are most passionate about. 

Some students know their major from the moment they start college, but for some, it takes awhile to decide. If you’re still undecided, there are many opportunities at this University and plenty of time to explore. 

“Start as early as you can, but it’s never too late,” Gardner said. 

Abby can be reached at [email protected].