Society expects a lot from us students. Many of these expectations are attainable, but some are impossible to even try to fulfill—like knowing exactly what our lives will look like 20 years down the road. We need to know if we’ll have a family, own a house, and have a solid career that pays the mortgage and the bills. From the time we begin our undergrad to our final graduation date, we’re expected to plan out every detail of our lives as though it’s some cheesy movie script.
As you read this, you may be mentally nodding in agreement and lamenting the absurdity of all this. And I’m here to tell you it’s okay if you apply as “undeclared” when you begin your post-secondary journey. I want you all to take a step back, breathe, and realize that it’s not a bad thing to feel lost. You’re certainly not alone.
At the beginning of my senior year in high school, I was torn. I was itching to graduate and go to university. I was ready to try new things and find my true calling. At the same time, I didn’t want to leave the simplicities of high school. For that matter, I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do with my life.
Adding to my confusion was the stress of an imminent deadline and the question of “so what are you doing in September?” from every teacher, family member, and friend. As graduation got closer, I couldn’t focus on the party or my dress; all I could focus on was the fact that I had absolutely no idea what my major would be. All of my friends were set on being engineers, teachers, lawyers, doctors… the list was endless. I didn’t want any of those dreams.
When my first year began, I was a nervous wreck. Among my fellow first-years were students with similar dreams of becoming engineers, teachers, lawyers, and doctors. I felt ostracized for being undeclared and unprepared. I began to question whether or not it even made sense for me to go to university when I still had no plans or ideas.
But in my first year, I met a fourth-year student in one of my classes that changed my whole perception of being undeclared. When she asked me what I was majoring in, I shied away from the topic until she finally got an answer out of me. I told her I was undeclared. I had no major. She laughed and said that it wasn’t a big deal. When she found out that I was only in my first semester, she laughed even more.
“Don’t stress about it! You’re still early in the game,” she said. She then told me that she only declared her major halfway through her third year. And her newly-declared major was in a completely different field than what she thought it’d be in high school.
The thing is, you will change and grow. Sounds super cliché, but it’s true. As you go through university, you’ll take courses that shape the way you look at life. You will learn new things and find new things that interest (or don’t interest) you. You’ll meet friends that motivate you and professors that inspire you. This is the beauty of post-secondary education: you have the opportunity to try different things outside of your major. At some point, everything will fall into place and you’ll find something you love. That something could inspire you to make a difference not only in your own life, but the lives of others.
So why rush the exploration process? Seriously—it’s alright if you’re an undeclared student. Instead of worrying about what you ought to be doing, do your best in what you’re already doing: working hard, studying hard, writing the best damn papers and lab reports ever, and being passionate about your schooling.
It will be difficult to embrace the uncertainty, but keep in mind that not knowing is part of learning. Work hard in your classes and keep tabs on things that pique your interest. Before you know it, you’ll be chasing the one major you’ve finally set your heart on. Here’s to all you SLNers who are beginning a new school year—good luck and happy studying!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.