First-year students struggle with a major decision

Less than a month ago, Colby opened up the “Initial Major Declaration” webpage to first-year students. This page allows students to declare a major, which some first-years have been waiting to do since the fall. However, not everyone has taken advantage of this opportunity yet.

As a first-year student, I have spent the past two semesters fulfilling many of my distribution requirements while simultaneously searching for a potential major. I have always enjoyed studying English, but when I received the email informing me I could now declare my major, I hesitated. For me, declaring a major, means choosing a path for my next three years—and potentially beyond. Luckily, Colby allows students to wait until the end of their sophomore year to declare a major, and for indecisive students like myself, this means an extra year to take advantage of Colby’s liberal arts education before settling on one subject to explore more in depth.

Emma Mehta ’19 is another first-year student who cannot decide on a major. She hopes an extra undeclared semester or year will allow her the freedom to further explore her many interests in order to find her true passion. “I haven’t declared yet because I still haven’t decided what I want to major in. I have a lot of interests right now, so I want to wait until I take some more classes next year, so I can narrow it down,” Mehta said. “I have a general idea, but it’s still too all over the place for me to declare.”

Allowing students two years to declare a major helped attract students like Nate Jester ’19 to the College. “If I had always known what I wanted to do, then I probably would have gone to a big state school for it, but that wasn’t the case. I picked Colby because I knew I’d have my first two years to pick a major and then decide from there,” Jester said.

Though waiting to declare a major may seem beneficial to those who don’t know what they want to study, it begs the question: if remaining undeclared is a disadvantage to those who know what they want to study but are hesitant to commit? Some of the first-year students who have declared believe that. When selecting students for over-enrolled courses, many courses give priority to those who need the course to fulfill a major requirement. This means that undeclared sophomores who are passionate about a certain subject could be denied entry into a course in that subject. “What I’ve been telling [my friends] is that this early on, majors and minors are really easy to change so it’s a good idea to declare the things you’re interested in because that also helps you get into those classes if they give priority enrollment to majors, which most courses do,” Nick Catania ’19 said.

While it can be nerve-wracking to go into sophomore year without a major the support of the College and other students alike can help undeclared students get through the process. “I’m a little nervous being almost halfway through those two years, but as I’ve talked to more people I see that there are so many options and I’m less worried,” Jester said. Despite the ease with which one can switch majors, there are also disadvantages that come with declaring a major immediately, especially for people who are on the fence. Declaring a major can narrow a student’s path towards completing the requirement for that specific major.

As Courtney Milot ’19 explained, “The reason why I haven’t declared my major yet is because I want to explore all the educational opportunities Colby has to offer before closing myself off to focus on my major.” Without fully exploring potential interests early on, a person can be caught in a position where he or she realizes his or her major in not his or her true passion. If this doesn’t happen until late in the college process, it can become more difficult to change majors and fulfill all the requirements in order to graduate on time.

There are also times where people think they know what they are passionate about but then completely change course. Katie Monteleone ’18 realized this year that her major was not her passion. As someone who changed her major mid- way through the year, she had some advice for the undeclared first-year students. “I’d say it’s really valuable to give yourself time before committing to one major. I originally declared education as my major, but then once I’d taken an English class sophomore year, I realized that I was more interested in pursuing that major instead. It’s important to give yourself a chance to explore different interests since you won’t know what you really like studying until you take classes. It’s really never too late to change your mind and decide you want to follow a different path,” Monteleone said.

Ultimately, choosing to declare a major or not comes down to personal preference. Some people have known their dream career since they were five years old. For others like myself, it just takes a little more time.