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Choosing a College Major: Undecided is OK

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Introductory courses can help students decide on a major.

Introductory courses can help students decide on a major.

Is your child starting college without choosing a college major? That's okay. It's not necessary to know what to study right away. There are resources to help and plenty of general education classes to take before diving into classes geared to a specific major.

My daughter is officially "exploratory." That's what her college calls students who come in without declaring a major. She has wrestled with how to answer all of those "What are you majoring in?" questions she receives from family and friends. Her standard answer has been, "I don't know yet."

It seems like everyone else she knows has already declared a major. According to the New York Times, however, 80 percent of freshmen at Penn State, a very large school, were unsure about their major. Maybe it's better for your child to take some extra time before declaring to be sure it's what he or she is really interested in. There are resources on most college campuses to help them figure that out.

At my daughter's college, they take the Exploratory program very seriously. Each exploratory student meets with an adviser at least once per semester. Exploratory students take a two-credit, seven-week course to better understand their strengths, interests, skills, and aptitudes. There are also career fairs, guest speakers, and opportunities to take personality and aptitude tests. Most campuses offer similar programs or one-on-one advising through a career center.

Many schools offer introductory courses in many different subject areas to allow students to get a first look at what a particular field is all about. These courses can help affirm or rule out a particular course of study. For those students who are having a hard time narrowing down to just one course of study, a growing number of colleges are offering interdisciplinary and individualized majors. These opportunities allow students to combine different fields of study into a major that is right for them.

My daughter tends to get frustrated about not knowing her major, but she feels better knowing that there are lots of resources on campus to help her. Make sure your student has researched all the options available on campus and has reached out to them before school starts to indicate "undecided" status. By making use of all the resources available, you can be confident that your child will end up choosing a college major that will be the best fit.

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