Some handy-dandy informational materials I received today informed me that between 30-40% of students enter college as “Undecided” or “Undeclared.” So, if your student is one of them, rest assured that you (and you student) are not alone.
I think this situation is scary for some parents. They worry that their students don’t have any direction or ambition, or that they’ll take so long to decide on their direction that they’ll be in college until the next ice age (while parents continue to pay the tuition bills). Subconciously, they wonder, “If my student can’t figure out a major, how will s/he ever navigate the more challenging parts of life?”
These parents should remember (and help students to keep in mind) that being “Undecided/Undeclared” is not synonymous with “The Major I Choose in Order to Put Off Choosing a Real Major as Long as Possible.” An “Undecided/Undeclared” major should be treated with as much intent and deliberation as a Nursing or Chemistry (or any other) major. “What?!” You ask, “How can a student who hasn’t chosen a major make intentional, deliberate decisions about it?”
This one is easy. The intent of an “Undecided/Undeclared” student should be that of exploration. Just because you’re “Undecided/Undeclared” doesn’t mean you just register for general education courses and call it done. It also doesn’t mean you choose classes (like Basketweaving 101 or The History of Maple Syrup) on impulse, although the former is certainly more productive than the latter.
An “Undecided/Undeclared” student should take advantage of general education, interdisciplinary courses, and electives to explore the two or three areas in which s/he is interested so that s/he can make an informed decision when it’s time to choose a major.
Perhaps we should re-christen the “Undecided/Undeclared” major with a moniker that implies more deliberation and intent, something like, “Exploratory” or “Investigative,” in order to support this message.
Encourage your “Exploratory” student to be thoughtful about how s/he moves forward in the next year or so, and ask him/her to come down to the ARC and speak with and advisor (that’s what they’re here for–advice), or visit Ann Zeman in Career Development, and everything should be just fine.
Stay tuned for next week’s entry on incoming students who’ve already declared a major!
Jessica Hume, BU c/o 2005
Director of Writing and Parent Communications