Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Academics

When You Don’t Know What Major to Pick: Part 1

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Hi there! I’m Rebecca, a fifth-year undergraduate student at the University of Windsor. I’ve had a complicated undergrad career; I started out as a double-major in English and French Studies, but I wasn’t happy in that program, so I ended up switching into a double-major in Political Science and French Studies with a minor in English… in my fourth year.

I’d had doubts about my program before then, and tried classes in lots of fields–women’s studies, philosophy, social sciences, etc.–but nothing quite grabbed me, so I sort of just stayed put until the last possible minute. I finally switched programs, but I don’t think I’ll ever be completely sure I made the right decision, both in terms of switching and in terms of program choice. I have doubts about my current program too, and I seem to have a case of perpetual identity crisis.

As such, I’d like to share some personal advice with any first-years who are also struggling with the decision of what major to pick. As a disclaimer, please consult a guidance counsellor or other professional before making any major decisions. I’m just sharing my personal experiences and advice I would give my first-year self if I could go back in time, but it might not be the right advice for you, so please carefully reflect on your own situation, ask for advice from professionals and people you trust, and take what I say with a grain of salt.

Do AN UNDECLARED MAJOR IN YOUR FIRST YEAR

Many schools give you the option of doing an undeclared major in your first year, which means that you won’t have to immediately pick a specific program and can take courses in any field. If you have a variety of interests and aren’t sure what major(s) or minor(s) you would love the most, or if you’re really confused and have no idea what interests you at all, then doing an undeclared major when you first start college is an excellent way of exploring possible areas of study and figuring out which ones you feel the most passionate about.

A lot of students worry that doing an undeclared major in their first year will lead them to graduate later than 4 years’ time, the traditional length of time it takes to obtain a bachelor’s degree, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Even if you take courses that don’t end up being a part of your major, chances are you can still use them as your elective credits, so they probably won’t go to waste. If you take enough credits in one field that also doesn’t end up being your major area of study, you can still apply for a minor in that field (which typically requires 6 courses total), so again, it’s unlikely that your credits will have been obtained for nothing.

And, if in the end you do need to stay in school for a little longer than 4 years to finish your degree, wouldn’t you rather do that than potentially get a degree in something you’re only lukewarm about, or that you don’t even like all that much? If I could redo my undergrad, there is no doubt I would have chosen the undeclared major route in my first year. I would have explored all my options before choosing any majors, and erased any questions of “What if?” from the start. I might have graduated with a very different degree this year, but I’ll never know for sure, so it is a bit of a regret to me.

Do A DOUBLE-MAJOR AND/OR A DOUBLE-MINOR

If you’ve explored all your options and are still struggling to pick a single field of study because you have various passions you like equally, why not pursue a double-major and/or a double-minor? Certain schools even offer triple-majors, which is another option. I personally couldn’t imagine pursuing a single major because I like interdisciplinarity and how different branches of knowledge can be combined into something new. I also find the variety of having two majors really refreshing, and personally I’d find it really boring to learn the same subject matter in almost every single class for four years.

There’s a misconception that doing a double-major is somehow harder than only doing one, but the course load for a bachelor’s degree is generally the same regardless of whether you pursue one major or two. You need 120 credits, or 40 courses, for a bachelor’s degree, and if you choose to double-major, this just means that your required course credits will be equally divided between the two majors, not that you’ll need more credits than someone only pursuing one major. A general liberal arts degree could also be a possibility for you, although opinions are mixed on its utility in finding jobs afterwards.

REMEMBER THAT YOUR MAJOR DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THE BE-ALL-END-ALL

It’s possible that after taking courses in a bunch of different areas or trying out various programs that you’re still dissatisfied or unhappy, and honestly, that’s okay. The perfect major or program might just not exist for you, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the world because you can still find fulfillment and self-discovery outside of class, such as in clubs and extracurricular activities. Extracurriculars have just as much potential as coursework to lead you down a certain career path and give you a better idea of who you are and what you want to do with your life. If I’m being completely honest, I enjoyed participating in clubs at my school and learned more about myself from them than from taking any courses in my programs.

For example, being a writer and social media contributor for the University of Windsor’s chapter of Her Campus helped me figure out that I would probably really enjoy a career in media. Being co-CC for the club showed me that I’m actually pretty damn good at managing teams of people, and that I could probably do really well in some kind of career involving management. I also realized I loved making or producing things, in this case content, and that part of the reason I wasn’t enjoying school was because none of the programs I tried out actually allowed me to get creative and make stuff and put them out into the world for people to see.

It dawned on me that I probably wasn’t going to love any program I tried, that for me the subject matter might not matter so much as the structure or format of the program because I could reasonably enjoy anything related to the humanities and social sciences. What I really needed was some kind of experiential learning. I didn’t want my program to be entirely focused on listening to lectures and reading books, as much as I love both. I needed a program where I could go out into the world and actually do and make and experience things, and that’s why I felt so unhappy, and still sort of do, in basically all the programs I tried.

All I can really advise is for you to branch out outside of school. Participate in clubs. Apply for on-campus jobs that sound interesting to you. Volunteer with organizations you think are doing cool or important work. If you’re like me, these will teach you way more about yourself than traditional classroom learning and show you potential career avenues you might have never even considered. And even if your extracurricular activities don’t achieve these things for you, I can guarantee you they will still significantly enhance your University experience, and I don’t say that lightly.

So, maybe no major or program will ignite a burning passion in you because school just has a special knack for killing passion, and maybe you’ll enjoy your career more than the degree it took you to get it. Maybe you’ll never be totally certain about what major is right for you because you’re just a chronic overthinker, or your expectations for school are too high, or you’re a jack-of-all-trades type of person that could do reasonably well in more than one field but aren’t a perfect fit for any individual one. And honestly, how many people are?

All I can really advise is for you to branch out outside of school. Participate in clubs. Apply for on-campus jobs that sound interesting to you. Volunteer with organizations you think are doing cool or important work. If you’re like me, these will teach you way more about yourself than traditional classroom learning and show you potential career avenues you might have never even considered. And even if your extracurricular activities don’t achieve these things for you, I can guarantee you they will still significantly enhance your University experience, and I don’t say that lightly.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article series, where I will be sharing some more advice for first-years who are struggling to pick a definitive major.

Rebecca Haddad

UWindsor '22

Rebecca is pursuing a double-major in French Studies and Political Science as well as a minor in English Language and Literature at UWindsor. She likes to read, make art, and scope out vintage treasures in her down time. She isn't quite sure what her life purpose is yet, but hopefully it can help make the world a slightly better place.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️