From my sophomore year of high school up until the very end of my senior year, it seemed that everyone – from family, friends, acquaintances, counselors, teachers, to even strangers – was constantly asking me the same old question: “What do you want to major in?” Every single time, I would have to respond, “I’m not sure yet.” Some people would smile, nod, and say, “Oh well, you have time to figure it out,” while others would just look at me and, with a slightly condescending tone, respond “That’s okay!” and ask another meaningless question about my future that they certainly weren’t going to remember or care about. Now, I’m in my first semester of college and I get asked about my major every time that I have to introduce myself to someone new. I’ve probably said, “I’m Alyssa, I’m a freshman, and I’m undeclared” hundreds of times, and it’s only been a month and a half of college. Even now, the reaction to my answer is still the same: people often look surprised but smile and say, “That’s okay! You still have time to figure it out!”
While I completely understand that asking a college student about their major is an easy way to break the ice, I personally resent the judgment that follows. Maybe I’m oversensitive or think too much, but the response “That’s okay” to my answer seems to imply that some people think it’s not okay to be undecided. After all, when another person says that they are a mathematics, biology, English, or any other major, the response is usually “that’s cool/interesting/awesome” but never “That’s okay!”
There seems to be a looming stereotype that students going into college undecided are either confused, stupid, or both. Because of this, I despised being asked my major, and for the longest time, I was worried that once I entered college I would be completely lost. At every single college tour I attended, all the other prospective students appeared to already know exactly what they wanted to major in. I naively assumed that I was one of the only students going into college as an undeclared major.
In fact, about a half of students entering college are undeclared, according to the Education Department’s National Education Statistics. The same data states that approximately a third of college students change their major at least once, and a tenth change majors multiple times.
I thought I would later regret not declaring a major but at this point in time, I feel that it is one of the best decisions I have made. Since I am not tied down to one major, I have the freedom and opportunity to explore all the majors I’m interested in. I have honestly never been happier in my academic choices. I absolutely love having the privilege to choose the classes that sound interesting to me, no matter the major.
Students within a major also can explore other majors through discovery courses, but there is still the worry about major requirements if you choose a major within the first year of college. I would much rather be undecided and explore my options than choose a random major and consequently have to change majors multiple times. After all, if you are paying tens of thousands of dollars per year to attend a university, why wouldn’t you want to explore all of the options available?
Not all undecided students are confused. I have an overall idea of what I would like to eventually major in, but I still would like to remain undecided until I am sure that I’ve explored everything that interests me.
As J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost.”