Most college applications ask you to indicate a major. But if you're like many college frosh, you're checking "undecided." And that's just fine.
Not knowing what you want to study in college is normal, and it has its advantages. You get time in college to explore programs and see where you fit in.
If You're Undecided, Look for Colleges That Welcome You
Many colleges are well prepared to support and encourage undeclared students. Some even prefer that you arrive undecided. As you search for colleges, look for the following types of schools.
Liberal Arts Colleges Celebrate the Undecided
Some colleges are designed for undergraduates who want to learn broadly before settling into specialized study. These "liberal arts colleges" feature majors covering diverse fields, such as geology, economics, biology, chemistry, and languages. Programs are designed to move the student from broad study to a focused path, perhaps leading to graduate or professional study. (The word "liberal" means "broadening," as in expanding one's thought process and knowledge.)
Many Universities Offer Exploratory Programs
Some big universities offer smaller "colleges" or "exploratory programs" focused on the teaching of the liberal arts, supporting students in their studies, and assisting them with major selection. Students have access to the resources of a research university, while experiencing a style of instruction more common to small college settings. They often pair participants with an advisor.
Some Career-Oriented Colleges Help You Choose
If you want a practical major but you are not sure which one, look for universities with lots of preprofessional majors—and programs to help you explore them. Majors at these colleges usually come with a long list of required classes, so you probably will need to choose a major during your freshman year.
How Long Can You Wait to Declare a Major?
Many colleges won't expect you to declare a major until the end of your sophomore year. Students can use that time to explore a wide range of subjects before declaring their major. Colleges and programs focused on scientific and technical fields, however, often require students to declare their major when they apply or by the end of freshman year. This is because students are required to take courses in that major all four years in college.
Tips for the Undecided
- Explain your interests and goals in your applications. If you don't indicate a major on your application, discuss your learning goals and interests in your essay and short answers. This will give the admissions committee a sense of your direction. Colleges seek curious and creative students, regardless of major.
- Use required courses to sample different fields. Most colleges require freshmen to take general education courses (sometimes called "core classes" or "prereqs") in a wide range of liberal arts fields. Use this opportunity to explore various subjects and see what clicks.
- Learn what it's like to love learning. You may be a great student, but if your attitude is more "grin and bear it" than "I love what I do," start paying attention to moments when it's actually fun to learn something. That may be a huge hint as to your future major.