The first question college students are asked by friends, family and employers alike is all the same: “What’s your major?” While the question seems innocuous enough, it can be a stressful line for undeclared students, or even students that find themselves questioning their initial decision. What happens when a student’s first major seems to not fit their wants or needs anymore? Luckily, the situation is common.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 80 percent of American college students change their major, meaning well over half of students change their minds. This means that the advising offices come well equipped to handle such a situation. Courtney Williams, an academic advisor for the Roosevelt Advising Office, said that many students are either undeclared or declared but unsure.
“Those are some of the common conversations that we have regularly in our advising appointments,” Williams said. “Because a lot of times students, especially starting out as freshmen, they will come in and pick a major–it may be something their parents encouraged them to do.” She added that the students coming in often feel as though the major will get them a a job, but feel no passion for the subject.
Ipek Goktepe, freshman political science major, experienced this pressure. As an incoming freshman, she switched her original idea of a political science degree for a degree in biology, believing a career as a surgeon would be better. Soon after switching, though, Goktepe knew her main interest was still political science.
“My junior and senior year, I campaigned. Junior year I did presidential elections, senior year I did midterm elections, so that’s my passion,” Goktepe said. Drawing specific moments from her life experiences and channeling that passion into college is what helped her decide what major was truly right for her. Although the process took a while since Goktepe changed her major over the summer, slowing the communication process, she’s satisfied with her current major.
“Without the right major, you’re not interested in the classes you’re taking, and you don’t have goals in mind, so you’re not really working towards anything,” Goktepe said.
She encourages other students not to be afraid to make the change.
“It’s not a hard process at all, especially if you’re already on campus,” Goktepe said. She encourages people to go down to academic advising to discuss their options.
It is often “the process” that intimidates students from changing their major at first – although for people, it is the emotional process rather than the physical that feels overwhelming, explained Sarah Maria Rutter, academic advisor and program administrator.
“Quite literally, it’s signing a piece of paper and dropping it off,” Rutter said.
“I think there’s the pressure of college–this big idea that you have to make this decision, because you have four years, and the experience is so expensive and so precious, and you’ve made this commitment, so you ‘can’t switch.’ I think that combination of external ‘big idea’ pressures versus it being a hasty decision, I think that affects people whether or not its easy or hard.”
Rutter encourages students to play with the Roosevelt DegreeWorks website, located in RU Access, in which on the “What If” tab, students can pretend to switch their major and see the new requirements, how far along they would be in their new major and many more things. Rutter also said she thinks that the Roosevelt catalog (catalog.roosevelt.edu) is helpful because it outlines each major from each individual college.
Rutter concluded by explaining that she had seen the stress the decision has caused students and proceeded to give a bit of advice.
“There’s a couple of steps: going onto ‘What If,’ going to your advisor, asking what it would take, how long it would take, but also, going to Career Services,” Rutter said. She promoted the idea of going to Career Development because they help students decide a major based on what career they would like to go into post-college.
Williams also promoted Career Development, and encouraged open conversation with advisors.
“It takes a little bit more to figure out what you’re passionate about, what you really love, what you enjoy doing,” Williams said. “I like those having those conversations because it does make you think outside the box. Ideally, you’d want to go with something that you are inevitably going to enjoy, because this is something you’ll be doing for a long period of time,” she concludes. “After you get your degree and walk across that stage, are you confident?”
Career Development is on Wabash Room 324. Academic Advising is on the Mezzanine floor of Wabash, room 1M10.