Undecided Students Compose Largest Category of Majors

By: Jenn Tyborski

Psychology is the most popular major among Roosevelt University students, and its runner up isn’t even an actual major.

According to Laura Kehoe, associate registrar for systems and scheduling, there are 269 undergraduate students for fall 2013 whose major is undecided.

Eighty-eight percent of the undecided students attend school at the Chicago Campus.

So why are there so many students in this undecided category?

Jennifer Wonderly, director of academic advising and assessment at Schaumburg, discussed the fact that students are uncertain about choosing a major that aligns with the careers they want.

“Students don’t declare their major right away mainly because they do not know what their options are, or how a major will specifically match up with a career,” Wonderly said. “Sometimes they have interest in so many different areas that they find it difficult to choose just one area to focus on for a major.”

Unlike some universities, Roosevelt does not require students to declare a major at their time of admission. Instead, students are able to take various courses to find where their interests lie.  Most courses available to freshmen and sophomores fall in the general coursework category. With the time to explore, students can wait until later in their academic careers to decide on a particular major.

“Being an undecided major is that it allows students the freedom to take courses that interest them and that will broaden their academic background,” Wonderly said.

Catherine Campbell, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, agrees with Wonderly.

“Being an undecided student can be a good thing,” she said. “The more informed you can be regarding the choices, the better chance of making the decision that is best for you. Of course, you do not want to stay undecided forever, but sampling courses and discipline-related extracurricular activities can help with your decision making.”

Based on numbers from Sept. 5, 44 percent of undecided students are concentrated in the College of Arts and Sciences, and 49 percent are in the Heller College of Business.

In a study on students admitted between fall 2009 and fall 2012 who began as undecided majors, the time between starting at Roosevelt and the declaration of a major was about 12 months for freshman and about nine months for transfers.

Of the 289 students included in the analysis, the top majors selected were: psychology (10 percent), management (10 percent), integrated marketing communication (7 percent), finance (6 percent), biology (6 percent), and hospitality and tourism management (5 percent).

“Of course, there are outliers,” Campbell said. “Some students took as few as two months or as long as two years to declare a major.”

Students have numerous resources on campus to help find their paths. One of the ways Campbell helps guide students is by emailing an electronic postcard each week with information announcing a student activity related to selecting a major.

Students are encouraged to speak to their advisors about any questions they may have regarding their majors. Advisors can make recommendations and help students explore all of their options at the university.

“You know yourself better than anyone else,” Wonderly said. “Taking advantage of opportunities early on is vital. Talk to your professors during their office hours. Conduct informational interviews with the faculty in the specific academic discipline(s) that you think are interesting. Take advantage of the workshops on campus for career and major exploration. Consider volunteering or job shadowing opportunities.”

The Career Development Center is another resource provided to students to help them figure out which major(s) fit their interests. One tool available to students is a career assessment that matches a student’s personality with a career field.

Another resource used by Career Development is called, “What Can I do with my Major,” which lists a variety of majors, along with the various types of careers that could be pursued with that degree, according to Aaron King of Career Development.

“Feel OK about not yet declaring a major, actively use the resources available to gather information and seek assistance with decision-making,” Campbell said. “We want you to find your best fit and are here to help you.”

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