Advice from former and current undeclared college freshman
Heading out into the world as you graduate from high school and walking into “adult life” in college can be challenging enough as it is, and if you don’t know what you want to study, you might think you’re in for a tough time, but that really might not be the case. UC Davis offers 100+ majors to its students, and many begin their journeys as “undeclared,” but find their way to their future academic emphasis in the knick of time.
“Some of my friends knew exactly what they wanted to do right after college, what job they wanted and I knew I wanted this general field but I had no clue what I wanted exactly,” said second-year cinematography and digital media and communication double major Michelle Demoss. “I just kind of took my time…’Oh, these classes kind of sound interesting and they fill up my GE’s so I’ll go for them.’”
Demoss talked about her experience of choosing classes as an undeclared major.
“Most classes I took were related to the field that I wanted to do, like cinematography and media of sorts,” Demoss said. “But I did take classes that were very random since I wanted to see if I would like them.”
Demoss tied these classes into her choice of a career path that she discovered through her courses.
“I’m taking college more like an experience altogether,” Demoss said. “Even if I don’t work in communications in some way or if I don’t work in film, which will be really sad, but I at least had a good time in college and had a rounded experience and I know ‘science’ stuff, or I know how to build stuff because of my job in theatre. I’m trying to do as many different things so if I don’t get something similar to my major, [I’ll still be prepared].”
First-year seminars are another campus resource available to undeclared students that can offer guidance. These classes are typically between one and three units, with a grading or pass/no-pass option, and cover topics range from the meaning of life to “drawing and the art of meditation.”
“First-year seminars are always interesting.” Demoss said. “Nowhere near my major but I thought it was very enlightening. The one I took was ‘Hunter Gatherer Society,’ and the violence between them. That was really weird but it was a fun experience.”
Max Lemann, a first-year undeclared student talked about his experience as he entered college without a specific major.
“I feel like coming in undeclared took a weight off of my shoulders, allowing me to just take the classes that interest me in hopes of learning more about myself and what I will want to major in when I must decide,” Lemann said.
His thoughts on having over 100 majors available at UC Davis are similar to those of Demoss.
“Having 100-plus majors is a large pro for me,” Lemann said. “I enjoy the comfort of knowing that I have options. When I figure out what area of study interests me most, there is such a large chance that there will be a major available for me.”
When asked his thoughts on whether or not people end up in careers they majored in as an undergraduate, Lemann said: “I know that my dad majored in history and anthropology but is now an entomologist and museum curator, and my mom was a communications and journalism major who is now an elementary school teacher. I would try not to build judgments around that, but they certainly did not go into the field that they majored in.”
Choosing classes when you don’t know what will count towards your degree and what won’t is a challenging task for a lot of first-year students.
First-year undeclared student Amy Lu spoke about how she chose her classes as an undeclared major in order to best suit her academic plan.
“I am signing up classes by interest at this point, also by my potential study area,” Lu said. “For example, I am considering majoring in political science, that’s why I signed up for ‘Intro to Comparative Politics’ just to see if I actually like the content.”
These three undeclared students gave their advice to those who might be in a similar place in their collegiate journey. Demoss favored trying new things and remaining stress-free in the midst of your decision.
“Try new things,” Demoss said. “Have a social life. Don’t freak out, but study. Don’t worry too much about grades. This is gonna sound bad. But. You’re already in college, this is what my dad would always tell me. You’re already in college. Don’t stress yourself. The hard part is over. A doctor that has all Cs is still a doctor.”
Lemann highlighted avoiding nervousness and instead trying to find coursework that excites.
“I would just say that incoming undeclared freshman should not be nervous if they are,” Lemann said. “Look for classes that excite you and enjoy your studies as best you can.”
Lu told students to be cautious in their decision since it is long term, encouraging them to take steps necessary, no matter how long they are, to find the right fit.
“Be open-minded and don’t rush to make your decision, because sometimes it takes time to understand your true passion.” Lu said.
If you are currently an undeclared major, there are plenty of resources through advising, first-year seminars and your peers to help you gain insight toward what you want to do. But, from some students who have been in your shoes, the advice seems to be to try new things and go where you feel most excited.
Written by: Rabiya Oberoi – firstname.lastname@example.org