Most college students, when they begin their first years of undergraduate study, are barely adults. Largely new to adult responsibilities, most college students do not know much about the real world beyond their limited experiences in high school, so when they are confronted with the decision of how to focus their studies, many select their majors more or less at random. Then again, some recognize their lack of experience and choose to register as undeclared.
Having an undeclared college major can be liberating, giving students the opportunity to explore their interests and talents without the need to fulfill certain degree requirements as quickly as possible. Then again, being undeclared can cause a significant amount of stress. Here is how to navigate college successfully as an undeclared student and find the field of study most suitable to you.
Talk to Your Academic Advisor
When you enroll at a university, you are assigned an academic advisor, who is supposed to help you make decisions related to your academic career. When you choose a major, your advisor will help you plan your courses and double-check your credits to ensure you are on track to graduate in an appropriate amount of time. Your advisor might also help you skip certain classes that you can test out of or gain access to classes that might be difficult to enroll in.
When you are undeclared, your academic advisor plays an even more important role. You should check in with your advisor on a regular basis to have conversations about your current academic progress and your future plans. You might consider your advisor to be a mix between a counselor, a mentor, a coach and an administrator, who can help you identify your interests and strengths during your early semesters in college. By building a deep relationship with your advisor through repeated visits, they will be better prepared to guide you to academic and career satisfaction and success.
Allow Your Curiosity to Lead
University campuses are perhaps the best places in the world for appeasing curiosity. Though the internet provides more access to information than humankind has ever had, universities remain reliable spaces for trustworthy and accurate education, as they are filled with subject experts who have plenty of practice teaching students of various backgrounds. When you are undeclared, you are not locked into a required list of courses and credits, so you can allow your curiosity to pull you into all sorts of different subjects, where you might find a passion you were previously unaware of.
If you find that you are curious about more classes than you have time to take, you can talk to your academic advisor about different ways of enrolling in courses. For example, you might audit a class, in which you are permitted to sit in on the class but not required to submit any assignments or take any tests. You might also enroll in classes on a pass/fail basis, in which your letter grade is not important, so your performance in the course will not impact your overall GPA. Finally, you can take advantage of withdrawal periods, so you can sit in on the first few classes to determine whether you are interested in a subject before deciding to continue the course or drop out without penalty.
Find Connections on and off Campus
Often, colleges will organize events to encourage students with similar majors to mingle and form connections, which positively affects students’ academic performance. Unfortunately, because you are undeclared, you will have fewer build-in opportunities to gain deep and meaningful relationships with your peers. Thus, you need to go out of your way to meet people and develop the social experiences that you will need for academic success.
On campus, you should try to form strong bonds with fellow students in your favorite classes, or you can join clubs and other extracurricular groups to find valuable relationships. Increasingly, students are completing their undergraduate studies partly if not fully online, which can make networking and social bonding feel all but impossible. In this case, you should try to transition into a program like a bachelor’s degree in psychology as soon as possible. Then, you are more likely to encounter the same students in your online courses, which makes it easier to cultivate online relationships.
You can’t be undeclared for your entire academic career — but starting college without declaring a major could be a smart way to get to know your options. As long as you know what to expect by being undeclared, you can make the most of your university experience and set yourself up for a lifetime of success.