I’ve been getting several very endearing (but also panicked) messages from underclassmen who are about to declare their major, are thinking of declaring their major, or have just declared their major and are worried now, so I thought that I should write down what I learned from my experiences.
- Choose Something That You Like: I know, I know. Everyone tells you this, and you say “But I like everything!” or “I don’t like it enough!” That’s fine. You don’t need to love it and want to do it forever and never do anything else, but you do need to think long and hard about what classes/themes/ideas make you think harder/longer/better than other courses do. Have you found yourself actually enjoying the readings for your History of Art class enough to talk about it with your friends? Do you find that the professor who teaches your math class has ideas that you’ve always wondered about? Locating and narrowing down a topic is the first step.
- Choose Something That You’re Good At: This one is a bit more tough love advice, but it’s true- if you declare a major in something that you’re not good at, your GPA will tank and you will be a stressed puddle come graduation day. You need to find that perfect balance between what you like and what you’re also good at. You don’t need to be naturally good at it, but you do need to be good at it enough that if you study hard you’ll be able to understand what’s going on.
- Look At The Department: This advice is a bit more specific, but it’s important to see what type of people you’re gonna be around for the next two years. Is the department made up of one-year professors who you’ll build a relationship with but then they’ll have to leave? That’s gonna be a bit hard on you, and on them. Do you hate every single professor in the department with a passion? Look into Haverford and see if you get along with them better? Regardless, these people will be your mentors, and especially if you’re going to be writing a thesis, you’re going to see a lot of them.
- Look At The Requirements: Especially if you wanna go abroad. A lot of the times the requirements for STEM fields are not conducive to going abroad, so if this is a big deal to you, try to talk to someone to figure out an option that works for you. BMC also has options to go abroad in the summer (along with funding!!), but you’ll need to start this process early. Besides going abroad, you may also have required courses that you need to take within the major (Sociology, for example, requires a statistics course). During this time you should also look at if you need to complete a thesis or not. It may not be a big deal now, but it will be when you’re a senior doing a zillion things. It’s always good to look ahead and see what’s coming for you.
- Look At YOURSELF!: This one sounds a bit cliche, I know. But it’s important! You need to ask yourself “What type of person do I want to become?” You may want to be a good person, you may want to be a rich person, you may want to be a happy person- all of these are valid! Now you have your first goal. Do you think that you can see yourself becoming your goal with the academic path you want to choose? By this I don’t mean “I want to be rich, therefore I want to major in engineering.” I do, however, mean “I want to be financially stable, and I can achieve that with a English degree.” Make sure that your goals match up with what choices you’re making (This extends to things besides your major, too!)
Overall, declaring your major is a bit of a stressful time. My experience was a lot of going back and forth, worrying if I was going to do something to permanently damage my future prospects. But the truth is you will always have time to go back and change your mind. Your future isn’t a straight cut line unfortunately, but rather a bunch of unexpected curves, and drops, and hills. Luckily you will graduate with a great support system that you can rely on! So yes, right now it feels like you’re sealing your fate but in reality you’re opening a bunch of new doors that have wonderful and exciting opportunities behind them!