Why Declaring a “Major” Can be a Major Pain: The Sophomore Crunch
Some students seem to have no question about where they are headed. You may wonder how they manage it and feel even more lost and alone if you don’t have the same confidence. And the clock is ticking. You feel the pressure to make a decision, but you don’t know where to start! Here are some things you might consider:
Everybody questions the path they are on. Whether it’s now, during the senior year, or after big money has been spent on graduate school, everyone questions their path. Thousands of books, career websites and a thriving consultant business shows that many people make mid-course corrections. If you are confused and unsure, so much the better. Even though it can feel uncomfortable, questioning is a sign of growth and a hallmark of the sophomore year. Now is a good time to think through your future, especially as you have time to explore in a relatively safe environment.
Most of the questioning is silent. Unfortunately, you aren’t aware of the questioning going on around you, of how many of your peers act sure when they really aren’t or are running on someone else’s dreams, rather than their own. Honest conversation can reveal where people are in the decision path. You aren’t alone.
Debunk the myths that trap you. A major, or even a field of study, isn’t a final decision, so you don’t need to stack that pressure on yourself. Many satisfied people are working in areas tangentially related to their original major, yet they use much of what they learned in college every day. There’s no one-to-one connection between major and career, except in certain technical degrees and certification programs. You have more room than you think, as long as you select, declare and finish a major so you can graduate.
Develop an alternate “Plan B” for backup. Questions like “What if it doesn’t work out?” can choke off creative thought or paralyze you and derail your planning process. One secret can be to develop a “Plan B” that branches off your original idea. If you want to be a rock star, your Plan B could be to start in the recording industry. It might be as easy as revisiting your flexible four-year plan and tweaking it to gain a new spin!
You have exciting work to do. Self-discovery of your strengths and talents started last year and is an ongoing process. Many sophomores have not really considered all possible careers that might be satisfying. Take pre-health students. They tend to be focused on one career, like doctor or physician-assistant, yet there are hundreds of careers that can fulfill the basic desire to help others have a better life. Use campus resources and programs to get a handle on the personal growth journey.
The worst thing to do is stand still! Start with small steps. Here are a few possibilities:
- If you are an extrovert: talk, the more the merrier, and ask lots of questions (just don’t forget to listen)!
- If you are an introvert: write/reflect, and talk one on one with career counselors/people in the field.
- If you are a logical-linear thinker: investigate and collect data, make lists of pros and cons.
- If you are an abstract/theoretical thinker: investigate and spin out the big pictures and ideas, look for connections.
- If you are interested in and sensitive to feelings: ask what issues others dealt with, look for careers that speak to interpersonal skills.
Use all your resources. Review the Field of Study/Select a Field of Study pages and work through the questions provided there. Professionals in the Academic and Career Planning Office can provide consultation and exploratory testing for you to do, such as determining your Holland Occupational Code. And they can help you get unstuck, too.