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Undeclared: Why Being Undecided in College Can Be a Great Thing

I’ve always been a person who dislikes uncertainty. Unlike many of my friends, surprises were never welcome, and if there was a way to plan for something, I would do it. When my AP English teacher called me, in his straightforward and not unkind manner, a control freak, I fretted over it for a day or so before coming to the conclusion that he was absolutely correct in his assessment.

With this in mind, it is unsurprising that I thought I knew what I wanted my major to be when I entered college. All of my applications noted that my intended major was business. Although this seems laughable now (to me and to anyone who knows me), it seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, this seemingly good idea did not last beyond the first week of classes at Vanderbilt, where I went from being a business major to being the dreaded undecided.

At first, I thought this was unacceptable. Being undecided was an unpleasant surprise for me, and since my schedule was designed with my supposed major in mind, the classes I was taking, replete with lots of math and economics courses, seemed irrelevant. After another, seemingly endless week of trying to figure out what to do next, I decided to embrace my undecided status.

For the second semester of my freshman year, I started exploring classes that I was genuinely interested in, rather than just taking courses to fulfill the College Program in Liberal Education (CPLE) requirements. I had the chance to learn more about sociology, English, history and theatre and to discover what subjects and majors fit my interests and strengths, rather than selecting the major that I thought I should have. In my sophomore year, when the deadline came for declaring a major, I had a better idea of what I wanted to pursue. After opting to be an English literature major I felt much more confident about my path than I did as an uncertain and unhappy business major.

For you undecided high school graduates, take heart. There isn’t anything wrong with going into college undecided, and it is far better to go in undecided rather than selecting a major for an arbitrary reason. Rather than seeing your lack of major as a hindrance, look at it as an invitation to investigate different subjects and interests. Yes, college can, and likely will, help prepare you for a career. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to have everything planned from freshman orientation to graduation. Even if you, like me, do not like surprises of uncertainty, college is the perfect place to consider your options and the different paths you can take.

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