The Benefits of Being Undecided

Despite what people say, it’s okay to start college not knowing what to do because you still have time.

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Despite what people say, it’s okay to start college not knowing what to do because you still have time.

About 80 percent of college students change their majors (Image via US News & World report)

Entering into college without a declared major can definitely give rise to some insecurities. Starting freshman year without a clear goal in mind of what you want to do after you graduate, and therefore no set idea of what you should specialize in, is undoubtedly intimidating. While you may be wishing that you had already decided on a major like your peers, there are fortunately several advantages that come with being undecided. In fact, in some cases it might even be preferable than to settle on a major right away. The next time you’re feeling down about your indecisiveness, keep these benefits in mind.

You Can Get Your General Education Requirements Out of the Way

As an undecided student, you won’t be constrained by the need to take specialized classes right away. Since you have to fill up that schedule somehow, you might as well take your general education classes early and get them over with. Though this may not make for the most exciting semester, you’ll be grateful later on when you don’t have to scramble to fit these required courses into your schedule. In addition to having one less thing to worry about as you approach the end of your college career, you can also use these classes as a way to explore various subjects to get an idea of what you do and don’t like. Then, once you declare a major, you’ll be able to focus on all of its necessary courses without the distraction of other graduation requirements getting in the way.

You’ll Avoid the Pain of Changing Your Major

According to USA Today, about 80 percent of students change their major at some point during college. Though switching concentrations is common, you can decrease your chance of becoming a part of this statistic by being undecided. If you settle on a major too early, you might eventually want to switch, only to find yourself stuck with a series of classes that you’ve completed but no longer need. You might also have to scramble to finish all of your new course requirements in time to graduate—not to mention the general education courses that you might have put off. As a result, many students who declare a major and wait too long to change it run the risk of graduating late, meaning they’ll spend even more time and money on college than is necessary.

Switching between majors is stressful enough; it’s even worse if you have to switch between professional schools. If, for instance, you enter into college as part of an engineering school, but later decide that you want to switch over to business, you might have to reapply to the business school and find that you have trouble doing so, given that the classes you’ve been taking are unrelated. On the other hand, if you come in as undecided, you can take classes ahead of time that will lend themselves to one major or another. Then, if you need to apply to a professional school, you’ll be able to demonstrate your interest in the subject through the courses that you’ve taken. Having some extra time to make up your mind before you commit yourself to one topic will pay off especially in the instances where your major falls into a professional school, rather than a more general liberal arts college. Regardless, starting out as undecided can save you from all of the added stress that comes with changing majors.

You Can Boost Up Your GPA Before Applying for a Competitive Program

If you want to take part in a more competitive or specialized program at your university, such as nursing or physical therapy, but you’re not sure if your current grades and credentials will qualify you, coming into college as undecided will give you some extra time to boost your GPA and increase your chances of being accepted into these majors. You’ll also have some time to explore other options and to ensure that you’re ready to commit before you actually do so. You can try taking some classes in a relevant subject in the meantime to see what you think and how well you do; this will also have the added bonus of demonstrating your interest in that area, which could put you ahead of everyone else when you apply. Though the benefit in this case will vary based on the circumstances, it might pay off to wait before you apply for a competitive program, to make sure that you have the best possible chance of being accepted.

You’ll Be Able to Explore More Diverse Classes

Being undecided will probably mean taking a wide range of classes while you’re in the process of finding a major that you’ll enjoy. As a result, you may find yourself taking a lot of electives that you wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. Rather than being a waste of time, taking these electives to explore different areas will expose you to a much wider range of subjects than students who come into college with a declared focus, and who devote all of their energy to major requirements. While in the process of finding a subject to pursue, you may also land on a couple of other areas that are interesting to you, which you can pursue as a minor or just for fun. Overall, you’ll leave college having taken a wider range of classes, which you may find come in handy later on. For instance, even if you take a writing course as an elective and decide that it really isn’t for you, you may find that having that additional writing experience benefits you in your other classes, or later on after you graduate.

Despite the negative connotations that come with being undecided, there are a lot of unique advantages that these students enjoy. They have more freedom to explore other classes while deciding between different concentrations, can get their course requirements out of the way and have more time to focus on their actual major classes later on and they’ll hopefully save themselves the trouble of switching their major and getting behind. All in all, it can pay off to be undecided—so if you’re not quite sure about what you want to do, allow yourself the time to figure it out.

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