UT should push students to wait before declaring major

David Bordelon

When applying for college, prospective students are asked the dreaded question: “What’s your intended major?” Before even truly experiencing the subject matter, students are expected to choose a major that will define their next four years. UT should encourage students not to declare a major until the end of their freshman year, after they have sampled potential majors and found their favorite.

Choosing a major should be no worry — one can easily change majors, and statistics show a tenuous connection between major and career. Studies show that 75 percent of students change their major at least once and the average student changes their major three times. On top of that, it is estimated that only 27 percent of college graduates work in a job directly related to their undergraduate degree. If students are so indecisive about majors anyway, it’s detrimental to have them declare a major before even entering college.

Currently, there is a stigma around being undeclared in college. But there’s absolutely no reason to be ashamed of being undeclared — in fact, it’s probably a smarter decision. Undeclared students can survey various subjects without the pressure of organizing a schedule around future, major-specific classes. They can decide to major in English instead of biology upon learning that medical schools don’t require a specific major. They can take classes on particular interests and discern whether that interest fits them.

In an article for The New York Times, author Jeffrey Selingo speaks of the importance of finding the major that fits the student. He gives an example of a journalist he knows who says most of his coworkers are not journalism majors, but their commonality is that they “all majored in what [they] were interested in.”

However, declaring late or changing majors could lead to more years spent in school. UT is strongly pushing four-year graduation, and another year adds extra costs in tuition, thus the appeal of choosing a major and sticking with it. David Spight, UT’s assistant dean for advising, dispels this myth by pointing to the lack of correlation between changing majors and four-year graduation rates.

“Whether someone starts with a major they keep or not is not really that important in terms of whether a student graduates on time or not,” Spight said.

Colleges should encourage students not to declare a major before they’re ready. The emphasis should be on finding what major you love and experiencing what college has to offer — both of which are better achieved by having students wait to declare their major. 

Bordelon is a philosophy sophomore from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @davbord.