Current major selection system must be reevaluated

Madison Goodrich

Editor’s note: This column was written before the closure of the UT campus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Its content may or may not reflect the current reality of student life on campus. We believe it is important to share this column to shed light on issues around campus and to honor the work of its author.

High school and transfer students are faced with a lot of decisions upon enrolling in a new university. Where am I going to live? What do I want my college experience to look like? How am I going to make new friends?

As they ponder these questions, students should not have to worry about deciding on a major.

The current UT admission process for incoming students consists of applying to a college and major before enrollment. In many cases, admission into the University is based on the major they applied for.

Mahima Gupta, an international relations and global studies senior, went through this process upon transferring from the UT-San Antonio. She applied to UT-Austin as a government major with the hopes of transferring into the McCombs School of Business, but instead switched to IRG.

“I think a lot of people, including me, don’t know what they want to do when they enter college,” Gupta said. “(The current process) puts pressure on students to take the safe option instead of having the option of feeling out college and what they (want to) do from the start.”

Tiffany Tillis Lewis, the director of the Gateway and Longhorn Link programs, also thinks every incoming undergraduate freshman should be undeclared for their first year as they take courses specifically to prove their ability to compete for their intended major.

“I believe that there is value in rethinking the major selection process for students, (and) in particular not requiring students to pick a major right out of high school,” Lewis said. “I believe that we would be able to address equity and underrepresentation in certain colleges and certain majors.”

The University of Virginia and Tulane University currently allow students to apply for their undergraduate college before the end of their sophomore year. This program encourages students to take college-level classes and learn more about what they would like to do and what they are passionate about before committing to a specific major.

“I had to pick a major, and I couldn’t pick the major I wanted,” Gupta said. “I had to pick a major I could easily get into … and that was annoying.”

If Gupta had had the opportunity to take business courses before deciding on a major, she could have known unequivocally if she wanted to pursue the major.

UT should allow undergraduates to apply without declaring a major so they have the opportunity to take introduction classes from multiple majors. This way, they’ll be able to better decide on which curriculum will be the best fit for them and then apply to that major during their third semester of college. This would allow students to take a variety of courses so they can better understand where their individual passions and interests lie.

Additionally, this new admissions program would benefit students who come from high schools without many college preparation classes and resources. If these students had the opportunity to take introductory classes in competitive majors like engineering or computer science, they may be able to prove themselves capable of completing the course work.

“For those students I do see a benefit of a program like this … many of them are denied their first choice major, so they come to UT thinking they have the opportunity to work their way into whatever it is they were pursuing from the start,” Lewis said.

The current admissions process needs an upgrade. Students will benefit from a program that allows them more of a chance to compete for the major of their choice, rather than picking a major they are not passionate about and risk being stuck in that field.

Goodrich is a government and African and African Diaspora Studies senior from Dallas.