Student Voice: Major Choices
Four classes. A maximum of 18 credits. An endless amount of course permutations. I sat dumbfounded at the dawn of my assigned class registration time-slot, still hesitant about which classes I found most compelling, and which academic path I wanted to undertake. I hastily referenced the Excel spreadsheets my parents assisted me in assembling, each one outlining a different class combination for the Winter 2015 semester. I anxiously opened up Internet tabs mapping out the university’s core requirements, in addition to browsing an array of major homepages. English, American Culture, Sociology, Communications, and Psychology curriculums all stared back at me. Each trajectory intrigued me in its own way. I was enticed by the English department’s emphasis on writing improvement. I was fascinated by Sociology’s offering of Project Outreach classes where students broadened their learning outside of the classroom through community engagement and hands-on-courses. My interest was piqued by American Culture’s prerequisites that explored the history of gender and sexuality. Not only was I an undeclared, soon-to-be second semester freshman, but it appeared that I was also severely undecided.
My parents encouraged me to major in whatever I was most passionate about. I had little interest in pursuing a career-oriented degree; my major choice was entirely my own, a task that was both exciting and daunting for me as a freshman. I also had to take into account fulfilling a university-wide language requirement and natural science obligations on top of all the major possibilities. Although advisors outlined what I needed to do in order to go abroad my junior year and graduate on time, they did not direct me toward which academic path was the right one. My peers suggested which courses they found particularly interesting, but did not tell me which to choose. This wasn’t like high school where I needed a full schedule from 7:40 am-2:30 pm, consisting of each subject every year. I had the power to design my own schedule, and determine the make-up of my own academic journey.
When I applied to colleges, I thought that my fascination with human behavioral development and sociological analysis lent well to the pursuit of a psychology major. My college list consisted of universities with strong social science departments, an attribute that I still found important as a freshman. This psychology plan was thwarted, however, when I loved a Communications course on Mass Media that I took first semester of freshman year, and began to consider a Communications degree as a viable option. My class schedule for the next few semesters revolved around fulfilling these prerequisites, while including space for Hebrew, and a few extra classes that I hoped would be thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating.
During my sophomore year, while choosing classes for the Winter 2016 semester, I realized that my exploration of numerous liberal arts disciplines needed to be more focused. I was a multi-dimensional student, like many others, with passions extending beyond one particular major. However, I needed to choose a path to follow through with. After several advising appointments, peer mentoring chats, and website browsing sessions, I ended up circling back to my initial interest.
Now a junior psychology major, a seasoned registrar at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, I have a few semesters of class registration under my belt, and a better handle on what my ideal class schedule should look like. I feel self-assured sporting a complimentary “Michigan Psychology” tee-shirt around campus. I even accommodated both my major and graduation requirements so that I can venture abroad to study in Prague this upcoming semester. My freshman and sophomore year courses, while informative and diverse, disallowed me from double majoring or declaring a minor. However, I am thankful for the opportunities I had to take classes filled with inspiring, provocative material, all led by renowned professors. My advice to anybody who, like me, sat in the library with their palms sweating perusing his or her university’s major homepages, is to take advantage of the vast resources on campus. Learn about what each department has to offer. Investigate majors’ sub-programs and opportunities to minor. Keep the university-wide curriculum in mind. Lay out possible scenarios for the next few academic semesters. Most importantly, remember that being “undeclared” does not mean that you also have to be unprepared.
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fineman is a junior majoring in psychology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She loves to write, play sports, and cheer on her favorite sports team: The Wolverines. Lizzie is excited to study abroad in the Czech Republic this upcoming semester, and explore Europe’s historical sites, rich culture, and delicious cuisines.