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Advantages of Being an Undeclared Major

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When filling out college applications, there is one question that stumps many soon-to-be high school graduates: What’s my major going to be? In fact, almost a third of first-time college students entering bachelor’s degree programs choose a major and then change it at least once within three years of enrollment, according to a recent study from the U.S. Department of Education. It’s important to choose a major carefully because every semester of additional classes can increase debt.

The statistic is not atypical of most college students, especially at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM), where every incoming freshman is asked to declare a major on their applications but can check a box as an undeclared major if they’re undecided. Today, some college advisors even make the argument that it’s reasonable to be uncertain about your future. AUM Undeclared Major Advisor Julie Valdez suggests considering the following pros and cons of enrolling as an undeclared major:

PROS:

  • You will hit the learning curve with less stress, allowing you to focus on navigating other first-year experiences such as deciding on housing and managing time wisely instead of worrying about “What am I going to be when I grow up?”
  • As an undeclared major, you’ll likely be assigned an undeclared major advisor who gets to know you and tracks your courses and grades. Your undeclared advisor also can help connect you with campus resources and think more globally when considering whether you want to pursue a STEM or liberal arts path.
  • You can easily rule out what courses are your strengths and weaknesses to have fluidity and avoid wasting valuable time (and money). It helps to know a certain major or planned career path may not be your natural skill set.
  • It offers flexibility in how you take your core curriculum and helps with finding a major that fits you. You’ll avoid ping-ponging all over the place with courses.
  • Reassures your parents there is no pressure for you to know who you are yet. Students can struggle with anxiety and depression because of the pressure of the expectation to have it all together. Being an undeclared major assures your parents that you’re still working toward a career goal, learning who you are, and not wasting money.

CONS:

  • You will likely have to backtrack in your courses (particularly in math and science) to take a higher-level course to meet the requirements of your new major.
  • Your junior and senior years are stacked with math and science courses because you have determined you actually want to become a doctor or an engineer.
  • Advisors often find that few students are ready for the amount of math and science they have to take on for such majors, and when students don’t do well, it can knock their self-esteem and their GPA.
  • You may lose out on a space in a competitive major, as well as major-specific scholarships or housing programs.
  • If you wait too long to declare a major, you might miss courses you need to fulfill your degree requirement or take classes that don’t count. In the end, enrolling in college as a declared or an undeclared major is up to you—and your parents—and how ready you are to map out your academic journey.

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