academic major, undeclared, underclassmen, upperclassmen, career
The variety of academic majors offered by universities seems to become more eclectic each year. From public relations to environmental economics to 3D graphics, the coursework and journeys taken by students across the country are exceptionally diverse. The University of Rhode Island offers over 100 majors, making it undeniable that some disciplines are disparate. My project calls attention to similarities in an area where the focus is customarily on the contrary. Before students were categorized, they all faced the same question – “What should my major be?”
At an age where we search for ways to identify ourselves, we often put majors at the top of our lists. For four years, our occupation, title, and purpose are often “student.” Parents, friends, teachers, and employers are guaranteed to ask what we study. Yet, the importance society places on majors does not directly correlate with the effort students put into choosing one.
I entered college as a carefree, undeclared student. I found my passion in communication studies, but cannot determine what led me there. Similarly, many of my peers are unable to identify how they chose their fields of study. Over the years, I have grown curious to know the leading factors in major decisions. I longed for cognizance in a prevalent yet overlooked area.
Kimberly White, a senior academic advisor in University College, and I paired up to tackle these questions. Why do so many students take such a serious decision so lightly? How do they narrow down such an extensive list of options? What components make up their determinations, or lack thereof? A population of underclassmen in the Undeclared Living Learning Community completed surveys with pertinent questions, providing substantial insight into the ties among personality, interests, abilities, familial influencers, societal pressures, and more. Respectively, evidence from a survey of upperclassmen parallels the same topics.
I had the honor of interviewing Vice Provost Dr. Dean Libutti and Assistant Dean of University College Linda Lyons. Both have worked closely with undeclared students at various universities and have a keen understanding of that particular population at the University of Rhode Island. Their knowledge, paired with my research, ensures that students share a bond of subconscious, uninformed, and rash decisions for a number of reasons. Fortunately, my project suggests plausible solutions to this major dilemma.