Navigating the unknown as an undeclared major
Papers astrew, laptops dying, and minds busy after attempting to solve seemingly impossible math problems, Bryn Wright sits in a small study room of Beckman Hall with two classmates by her side. Exhausted.
Wright isn’t even a math major. In fact, she isn’t a major anything. She is undeclared.
She explained: “My mom’s like, “‘you have to do STEM.’ Which is science, technology, engineering and math. It’s not that she’s forcing me to do it but she always says that girls don’t believe in themselves. But it’s like, I don’t want to be a chemist. It’s not because I have some deep desire or feel like I’m not good enough. I just don’t want to do it.
This past fall, as an incoming freshman, Wright had no idea WHAT she wanted to study. However, for her and many other students, having an option to come in as undeclared gave her time to make a careful and confident decision.
As an undeclared major at Chapman, students are advised to take courses in subjects that interest them alongside General Education classes. Resources, events and programs offered through the Career Development Center help guide students to decide on a major.
“If I hadn’t come in as undeclared, and had been in a major that I wasn’t sure about, I wouldn’t have gotten everything out of it. Like they give us different resources as an undeclared. I like it better just because I feel differently than other people about it and they gave me resources to match how I felt,” said Wright.
Although she does find these things to be helpful, when deciding on what to major in, Wright relies more on self-exploration. She’s found that looking into her past accomplishments helps her gain some direction.
“I wrote these speeches for my high school that were low-key stand-up comedy. And I loved doing them but I don’t think I want to be a stand up comic. But like I nominated myself for one speech and I just did really well. And then my class nominated me to be the graduation speaker,” said Wright. “It was my peak.”
Last summer, Wright interned for a screenwriter in Austin, Texas where she was able to foster her creativity while gaining some professional experience. Wright hopes to find a career that will encompass what she’s passionate about— something that includes both screenwriting and comedy.
According to chapman.edu, undeclared students at Chapman must declare their major by the time they reach 60 credits. If they fail to do this, a hold will be placed on the student’s account.
As an undeclared student nearing the end of her freshman year, Wright still has time. But the time that remains can’t be filled with too many doubts.
Luckily for Wright, she’s sure on one thing. She knows what she doesn’t want.
“The idea of working in an office, with a typical 9-5… Like oh my god. I couldn’t. I would scream.”
“I would hope that I could be doing something where I could create,” said Wright. “And if I couldn’t, I would hope that there could be something that I could do on the side.”
Isabelle Arriaga, a freshman kinesiology major who also came into Chapman undeclared, had an outlook similar to Wright’s, however, she used her family as motivation to inspire her career choices.
“My parents always talked about how they hate going to work and I understand that sometimes you’re just not going to want to go. But I feel like I want to at least try to do something that I enjoy,” said Arriaga.
Arriaga was able to decide on major after her first semester. But she felt that coming in as undeclared gave her an advantage.
“Some of my friends were really concerned because they thought that it was really competitive for their major, especially depending on their school. So if anything, I thought it would be easier because I wouldn’t have to compete to get into a certain program,” said Arriaga.
Despite her course load and future plans to attend graduate school, Arriaga is certain that she made the right decision.
“I was never the biggest fan of science in high school. But I feel like in high school, you don’t get into it as much. It’s just the basics. And for kinesiology they first make you take the fundamentals of science. So I wouldn’t say that I love taking bio right now. But I know that it’s going to take me to a career that I will enjoy,” said Arriaga.
Regardless of pressure put on by family or from other pressures, many students feel inclined to fulfill their needs of enjoyment and self-satisfaction.
Nicole Myers, a senior digital arts major and a Fenestra Community Advisor for undeclared students, agrees with this trend and believes in the notion of pursuing a career path that will guarantee happiness above all else.
“I think everyone is really hardworking and passionate even if they don’t really know what they are passionate about yet. It makes my job really easy because often times, with a little bit of guidance, they can easily find what they like, and then figure out what they want to do from there,” said Myers.
As a Fenestra Community Advisor, Myers works within a team for the office of First Year and Residence Life to bridge the gap between residence life and academics, connecting students to professors and different resources on campus.
Myers worked as a Fenestra Community Advisor last year as well, but not for undeclared students. Being given the opportunity to work with this particular group of students, she’s been able to become more empathetic towards those who feel lost and unsure about their future plans.
“This is my first year working with undeclared students and I’m learning what their struggles are. Some students seem to know exactly what they want already and the other half are completely stressed out… The Career Development Center is really important for undeclared students and I try to plug them as much as I can because they have assessments you can take online, they can pair you with a coach, and you can learn about different majors and how they relate to careers,” said Myers. “The CDC can really map everything out.”
Through her job, Myers is able to act as a mentor, by supporting students in addition to guiding them towards specific resources such as the CDC.
“Half is listening to people and the other half is trying to get out the things that they hadn’t gotten out but really enjoy,” said Myers.