What if I’m “undecided”? What do I do for this term?
Not to worry! It’s perfectly natural to be “undecided”--and you are in good company.
Among first year students across the nation:
- About 75% are somewhat uncertain of their direction.
- Almost 50% will change their direction at least once.
- Many students didn’t know their career choice even existed when they entered college.
- Students may leap into a choice without investigation, without being true to themselves: They would rather be certain than be accurate.
- Most students at Alma College graduate in four years, even if they enter as “undecided."
Being undecided might even be an advantage! It’s bound to be hard when everyone asks about your direction and you feel you don’t have a firm answer. Being open to the challenge of college and the changes you undergo may take you farther in the long run than those students who have a ready answer. You’ll be in a better position to act and react to the transition of the first year of college. Just about everyone goes through a period of intense questioning during this time; maybe you’re just ahead of the curve.
But I have to figure this out somehow! What steps can I take now?
If you have to register for your next term right now: Explore. Take classes in areas that interest you. Make sure each is in a major track and/or qualifies as a distributive requirement (DR). This strategy will allow you to make progress toward your degree even if you find a potential major is not as interesting as you originally thought.
Here are strategies for the remainder of the term and beyond:
- Read (or re-read) ”What is a field of study?” and “How do I select a field of study?” (There’s a ton of helpful advice there, but the steps will take some time and thought.)
- Talk to your advisor about options. They have insight based on their experience with other students. Some advisors are especially good at connecting students to their life’s work!
- Connect to the Academic and Career Planning Office for resources and help.
- Talk to students who are already studying the areas that interest you.
- Find out how other professionals found their career; it’s often a winding path. See “Informational interviews” for a useful information gathering method, and connect to Alma Alums via the Alma Circle (visit the Alumni Office).
Go for the essence. If you talk to students, teachers and other professionals, you will see that even those who “just always knew” what they were meant to do still had kinks in their path, and moments of great uncertainty. In the current career climate, it is easier than ever (and more likely) to shift fields, so it might be wise to focus more on the skills and knowledge that suit your direction, than exactly what your degree is called.
It might be this simple. You can waste a lot of energy in the “what ifs” of life, and they can drive you crazy. One aspect of college is about transforming dreams, and dreams are difficult to realize accurately. Instead, do the very best you can to sort out your future and then make yourself one promise: If you end up in the wrong place for you, don’t settle, but keep looking/shifting/moving and learning until you find your “right livelihood."
It’s worth the struggle!