Why ‘Undeclared’ May Be a Good Idea

The Admission Game just posted an interesting article explaining why indecision about major is much less harmful than many students think. I would like to go even further and suggest that there are advantages to the Undecided major, especially on the application. The most interesting points of the article, I think, involve these three statistics:

You will probably change your major in college! Most students (about 65%) change their minds about their majors at least once while they are in college. Half of them change their minds twice.

Further, a large amount change their minds three, four, or even five times. The record that I've personally experienced has been seven different majors before graduation (he ended up with three minors). Another interesting fact: the most populous major at most colleges? Undeclared.

Many colleges report that 80-90% of the people who graduated more than 25 years ago are now in careers that did not exist when they graduated.

Technology is exploding at a rapid pace. Any sort of Engineering or science-based field is going to see a lot of new development constantly. Even a steady field like psychology has seen new developments (Cognitive Science, an interdisciplinary subpart of psychology, didn't even exist as a field 25 years ago).

About 85% of the parents I survey indicate they are no longer in the careers they intended to pursue when they were 18 years old!

I would think that the percentage would be even higher than this. Though even 85% highlights the fact that any expectation that students have to plan their futures during the admissions season is unreasonable.

My suggestion is for applicants to take advantage of the fact that students typically are not required to declare a major until the end of their Sophomore year. There is no need to have additional stress from trying to pick a field of study when already overwhelmed by simply picking a university.

Unfortunately, there are times that you may need to declare something on your application. Some programs offer only limited enrollment (this is common in fields like Engineering, and especially Bioengineering), and restrict students who did not declare the major prior to admission. These programs are rare and are usually demarcated somewhere on the college's information pamphlet or website, so it is important to declare such a major if one may potentially interest you. You can always switch out later.

But if one of these 'impacted' programs is outside your sphere of potentials, simply leave yourself undecided and choose a path once you're in a position to make a more informed choice. There's no shame in waiting to declare; in fact, you are showing responsibility by choosing to wait and weigh your options. I'm sure the student I knew who graduated in his seventh major wishes he had taken that advice.

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