By: Kelsey Bannon & Emma Roose, Academic Advisors
There are many reasons why a student might be undeclared or want to explore major options.
Some students might know a general field they’d like to go into but want help narrowing down their options. Others might not know how their interests apply to future careers and academic pathways. There are some students who come in declared in one major and realize it’s not the right fit.
If this is you, remember you’re not alone! At USM, there are about 312 students who don’t have a major declared, and according to a 2017 report by the Department of Education, around 30% of students change their major within the first three years of college.
While the major exploration process can produce anxiety, being undeclared can and should be a very positive, fulfilling experience. Through self-exploration, career assessments and advising appointments, you have the opportunity to delve into and uncover your interests. Sometimes this discovery happens fairly quickly and for other students it takes more time before the moment of realization happens. Either way, we are here to help!
Here are some steps you can take to start your discovery journey…
Meet with your Academic Advisor and let them know that you are beginning your major
“discovery” process. This can happen during a meeting you already have planned with your
advisor such as a first-semester meeting or priority registration, or you can make a separate appointment. There’s no right or wrong time to get this process started!
In this discussion with your advisor, you’ll learn more about the different resources you have available to you as an undeclared student including access to various career and interest assessments, Gallup Strengths coaching, and research techniques as you search for information on majors and careers. Most importantly, we’ll make sure you get connected with a Career Advisor from USM Career and Employment Hub.
Questions to reflect on during your Academic Advising meeting:
What kinds of subjects have I enjoyed learning both inside and outside of school?
What do I like to do for fun?What do I value in life? Do I see this influencing what kinds of jobs I might want to pursue in the future?
After completing the career and interest assessments, you’ll be ready for a one-on-one
appointment with a Career Advisor. Career Advisors are different from Academic Advisors.
Career advisors are skilled in interpreting results from career assessments, are knowledgeable about workforce trends and up-and-coming fields, and understand employer needs and how students can become competitive candidates in the job market.
Likewise, Career Advisors work closely with the Career & Employment Hub’s Employee
Relations Managers who handle a wide network of employer and alumni contacts. Students are able to connect with these contacts for informational interviews, job shadows, and possible internships/jobs.
Your discovery process is individualized to you and your needs and can span anywhere from a couple of months to a full academic year – as long as you need to feel confident and enthusiastic about your chosen path.
Questions to reflect on during your Career Hub meetings:
What have I learned about myself through these self-assessments?
Does this seem like an accurate representation of who I am?
What majors/careers do I want to learn more about?
What kinds of info do I need and from whom?
How will I know when I feel ready to declare a major?
Your next step is to make another appointment with your Academic Advisor and update them on what you discussed with your Career Advisor. You can even fill out a ‘Change of Major’ form right then – it takes less than a minute to complete!
Your Academic Advisor can further help you learn about major requirements/curriculum and a graduation timeline.
You can also make a plan for the coming semester on how to engage with your new major, both in and out of the classroom. Although this process can take time and commitment, learning more about yourself and how you fit into the academic community at USM will benefit you in lasting and unexpected ways.