Should I Go to College if I Don’t Have a Major in Mind? It is not unusual at the end of your high school career to have no idea what you want to be when you “grow up.” You may know you want to go to college as individuals with college degrees earn higher salaries and have a better chance for advancement than those that do not. However, since you aren’t sure what you want to do with your life, you have no idea what to choose as a major. Education experts differ on whether entering college without a major is a wise decision as there are pros and cons on both sides of the fence.
Some education experts believe that waiting to choose a major is beneficial as some students need to have college experience before they decide which way their career may head. A Western Kentucky University study found that students who waited until the end of their sophomore year had a graduation rate of 83 percent while those who entered college with a chosen major had just under a 73 percent graduation rate.
Many colleges throughout the country require students to take general education courses in their freshman year of college. Some require foundation courses in the sophomore year as well. Also, a Pennsylvania State University study found that approximately 75 percent of students change their major at least once before they finish college, often because they discover an interest they were unaware they had as part of their foundation year of study. This study indicates that students who are unsure of a major before entering college may choose a wider range of classes during their first year of study in order to learn more about fields they may find interesting.
Use Community College
One option for a student who is not sure what major they wish to pursue is to take courses at a local community college. Most high schools offer students the opportunity to take some college-level courses at local community colleges. Even if you decide to attend community college for a year before transferring to a four-year college can help you choose a major without the high cost of most colleges. By learning more about a major at a less expensive, close-to-home location, students are better able to choose a career path that fits their interests.
Once you decide where your interests lie, you can transfer credits from the community college to a four-year college and already be ahead of other students who enrolled immediately after high school.
Lack of Personal Attention
One negative aspect of attending a larger college as an undeclared major is that large colleges often do not have the staff to provide personal care and attention to help guide undeclared students in the direction where they need to go. Many times, students who go to large universities as an major undeclared drift from program to program with no guidance on how those programs may best meet their needs. When the student finally does find a major they are interested in completing, they may not be able to schedule the courses they need in time to graduate with their class.
Education experts who do not believe it is wise for a student to attend college without a major say that students who go to larger universities with a major usually have more focus and can see better success than those who are unclear on where they want to be after college.
Because the options may be vast, it is far more difficult for an undecided student to get a clear picture of their interests when they are only able to take three or four classes each semester. A student who chooses a major can choose classes particular to that program and focus on obtaining the degree that will get them the job they want.
The question is, however, if choosing a major prior to entering college is critical, why do so many students change their major at least once before graduation? In many cases, a student who changes their major entered college without making an informed choice. In some cases, the student may have thought their choice of major was the only right choice for them, either because they had been told they were talented in that field or because authority figures, like parents, pushed them into a career that they felt would provide them with an adequate income after graduation.
Once they entered college, they may develop different conclusions and find that their initial choice of major no longer fit with their needs.
Often, students will enter college and choose a major based on things they enjoy doing. For example, you may decide elementary teaching because you like to work with children. Once you enter college, you may learn that there are very few positions available for elementary school teachers in the area where you want to live. However, during your first year, you discovered you have an aptitude for helping students with language barriers. This may lead you toward a different major that will keep you in the education field but require you to obtain a different degree.
Fluid Job Market
Because the job market is fluid, some experts believe that not entering college with a major helps you become a more marketable employee upon graduation because you may take additional courses that a declared major may not be able to take. Careers in any field often require skills beyond the major. A fine arts major may need to have some bookkeeping or typing skills if they plan to own their art gallery.
A nurse may need to have administrative skills if she hopes to move into nursing leadership. By entering college without a declared major, you may obtain these skills as you search for your chosen field.
There is no right or wrong answer regarding whether you should enter a college without chosen major. The decision must be made on an individual basis. It is highly recommended, however, that you choose a major as soon as possible in order to be sure that you can get all the courses you need in order to complete the program at the college you choose.
Delaying until your junior year could mean extending your education an additional year which can lead to higher costs for your education. That means it could take you longer to recoup your education investment once you are out in the workplace. The bottom line is that obtaining a college degree can lead to higher salaries, more opportunity for advancement and better marketability in an increasingly competitive job market.