Do You Need To Declare A Major When Starting College

declare a college major

College students do not need to declare a major when they start school. Generally, most students don’t have to declare a major until the end of their sophomore year or the beginning of their junior. So, don’t worry, you will have plenty of time.

Declaring A Major Can Be Hard

Choosing a major can be almost as daunting as choosing a college, there are just as many questions and important things to consider. What are my interests, my passions, my values, what are my abilities, and what do I want to do for the rest of my life? These are deep topics to consider about yourself and your future. The hard reality is, that your major will be crucial for future success, so it’s important to pick it wisely. If you don’t, it can be a huge waste of time and money.

It’s common to enter college without declaring a major. It’s also common for students to switch majors after they discover and determine their interests. As an undergrad, it can be difficult to decide what you want to major in, especially if you are young and a recent high school graduate. You haven’t had much time to develop your interests and focus on what you want as a career.

Applying To A College

When you apply to a college there will be a section to specify your major. It’s not required to fill this out. In fact, many students tend to leave this section blank as they have yet to decide what they want to major in. Unless the application states you have to declare a major you can just skip it.

If you’re applying to a Reach school or an Ivy League University, it is still likely that declaring a major is optional. Reach schools, sometimes referred to as “dream schools”, would be highly competitive colleges with low acceptance rates. For Reach schools, applicants tend to put more thought into whether or not they should apply as undecided. These universities may expect their potential students to know what they want to major in. If you intend to apply to a Reach school or Ivy League University, it might be wise to research the acceptance rates for those who apply undecided before you submit your application. Remember you can change your major later on.

Some Students Just Know What They Want To Major In

Some students have always known what they wanted to be. Since childhood, they have dreamt of a specific career. Declaring a major is easy for them as they know what career they want to pursue. These students can declare their desired major when they apply to college. However, for some students, it’s just not that simple. As I said before, you have plenty of time to figure it out.

You Have Time To Decide What You Want To Major In

Your first two years of college are mostly general education classes. This means if you are taking a full college semester load you will have about two years to see what type of courses you enjoy or are drawn to. Use this time wisely.

Do you like biology, math, or computer information classes? Are you more drawn to health, education, and philosophy classes? You will figure out very quickly what classes you struggle with and those you excel in. I’m not implying if you struggle in a subject that you can’t major in it, that is far from the truth, but it will help you navigate the major.

college student declare a college major

A Note To Parents

When you are helping your student decide what they want to major in be very mindful. Asking young adults what their passions are puts a lot of stress on them. Most students at this age don’t have a clue what they are passionate about or what they want to do with the rest of their life. This is normal. The stress of having to make such a big decision can put an immense amount of pressure on a student. Not knowing what their passion is or feeling bad for not having any can be stressful too. Being under such intense pressure can have serious consequences—anxiety, burnout, self-esteem issues, depression, etc.

Instead, I encourage you to guide them with practicality. Being practical teaches your child to lead with their head and not their emotions. You don’t want emotions overshadowing their decision. They might choose something because it feels good, or they are just picking something because it’s easy, or because it’s what they think is expected of them. The problem with this is how we feel will change over time and this can be difficult when they are several years into college and want to change their major. 

Encourage them to select a major that provides job security and a strong income. Hopefully, it will fuel their passion. If not, they can try and make it their passion. If that doesn’t happen, that’s okay. Passions that are not high earning and employable can be enjoyable hobbies, perfect volunteer opportunities, or even profitable side hustles, there’s plenty of room in life for both.

Parents, your support and guidance are vital to your student. According to recent studies, students with family support are more likely to succeed academically than those without them. Here are some tips, Family Support When Going To College Is Crucial.

It’s Okay To Change Your Mind About Your Major

If you declare a major when you start college, you are allowed to change your mind and decide that major isn’t the right fit for you. A student does a lot of growing in the first several years of college. Therefore, it’s only natural to change what you want to major in. Don’t be hard on yourself.

When you are choosing a major I want you to consider its earning potential. I want you to choose a major that when you graduate you will be in demand, on your way to becoming a higher earner, creating a very successful career, and achieving your lifestyle goals. If you are looking for more information on choosing a major, How To Choose A Major When You Are Undecided.