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Being undeclared can be both exciting and worrisome at the same time. On one hand, you have freedom and openness to all possibilities that come your way. You are using college, appropriately, to discover your strengths, interests, and motivations as an adult. On the other hand, you might envy your friends who talk in detail about the professors and courses in their majors. You also face questions from home about what you want to do with your life.
We want you to know that it is normal to struggle when you don't know answers to people's questions about your future. It's also OK to be unsure about a major or possible career. But if you feel insurmountable pressures that are not managed, you may quickly become paralyzed by or lost in the decision making. Choosing a major should be fun and creative, so it is important to devote some level of attention and effort to the process of selecting a major. Even minimal action brings this important college decision closer into view.
Below you will find descriptions of some of the common pressures that students face when exploring majors. There are people and resources to assist you, and we offer some suggestions to help you out of each dilemma.
Some undeclared students feel torn between their own thoughts and the opinions of others. Here's just one example:
EVERY person in your life will try to help you by telling you what you should do. (So helpful, right? More like noise, sometimes.) If you listened to all of them, you'd have 24 majors and be in college for most of your life! It's important to believe your inner voice that tells you whether you feel happy and successful when studying in a particular field, and share those feelings with your family and/or your academic advisor. Do your best to separate your authentic feelings about your studies from what you think you're "supposed to" study or from what sounds impressive.
Many students - declared or not - come to college asking the question "What can I do with a major in [xxxxx]?" This question is problematic on two counts:
It might be true that some majors are more professionally oriented (such as social work, education, and nursing), but it is just as true that most college majors prepare you for a wide range of job and graduate school alternatives. Further, the purpose of a public higher education is to better prepare you to participate in a civic democracy. You can do that with any college major, and especially through SUNY Plattsburgh's General Education program.
The better questions to ask are (in this order):
Notice how the words "major" and "career" are not mentioned in the above questions. The focus is on what you might enjoy, because they match with your current interests, talents, and values. Asking the questions above will make a major and career decision come more naturally.
Some students quickly discover a huge gap between what they thought a field of study was and what the field of study really requires of them. Here are just a few examples:
Sometimes your childhood dreams can come true, but other times they need to be "revised" according to what your real strengths are. When we're younger (and even into our first years of college), we have an idea of what we want to be (i.e., like a lawyer, or physical therapist, or trader on Wall Street); that's the destination. However, you have to love the steps along the way (i.e., like analytical writing, lab sciences, or advanced accounting); that's the journey. If your current skill set is not up to the actual demands of a field, the road to your destination can be paved with frustration and feelings of inadequacy.
Use your initial coursework to uncover where your real strengths are. Do you enjoy lots of reading? Group work? Lab work? Writing? Are you a leader? Are you creative? A logical, linear thinker? Do you do best at factual accounts of things, or prefer abstract concepts and theories? Do you learn best by hands on experiences, or by your own contemplations and reading? Does individual or group behavior interest you, or do you enjoy studying about data and things more than people? The answers to these and other similar questions are important to knowing what major(s) best fit you.
Some undeclared students feel anxiety over not having a major; this is normal. However, a certain percentage of undeclared majors put off the inevitable choice by doing nothing. Here are a couple examples:
This could very well be true, in that a course in your GenEd program gets you interested in a subject matter, or that someone else is able to see something in you that you don't see yourself. There's nothing wrong with being undeclared, but waiting without investigating can be problematic.
When you are looking for a summer job, we bet that you don't stay at home and wait for employers to come to your door. You go out and find one - whether it's through online searching, pounding the pavement looking for help wanted signs, or calling people you know. You're already familiar with this process!
Choosing a major works the same way. Acting on your uncertainties makes them go away. Here are some things you can do:
By doing a little exploration each semester, and with help along the way, you can make an effortless transition to a major that fits you well. The key is to work at it, a little at a time.
Office Location: Feinberg 101-103
Phone: (518) 564-2080
Fax: (518) 564-2079