Applying to College “Undeclared” or “Undecided,” Part 2

Some advice if your teen chooses this path.

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

If you and your student have determined that applying “undeclared” is the most reasonable option (see previous post for considerations), here’s some guidance on how best to approach college admissions.

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Find colleges with “exploration” programs In these programs specifically designed for the “undeclared” major,  students “explore” their interests by taking a variety of courses, working with a mentor or even finding an internship.

Get college credit in high school Credits from AP and IB courses, or other college level classes, make a difference. These can count toward required general education courses for many majors, creating room in a student’s schedule in case he changes his program of study and making it easier to graduate in four or five years.

Search for colleges that offer a variety of majors Kids with wide ranging interests need a college that will allow them to look around. Large universities tend to provide the most choices, but don’t discount the small liberal arts schools if they offer all the majors your student is talking about.

Meet with a professor or department head You can sign up for an appointment when you schedule a college tour and information session. Consider this if your student wants to learn about a specific area of study.

IMG_0984Dual majors, minors and making your own I have yet to go on a college tour where our student guide didn’t share that she was double majoring, or had at least one minor. Colleges encourage students to combine their interests. I know someone dual majoring in two related areas, and minoring in three others. My daughter’s major requires her to have one minor but she has two. The second, dance, is because she couldn’t give up something she’s loved since she was a preschooler.

Another option is to create a major. Working with an adviser, a student usually uses the core of one or two established majors and tweaks some of the required courses to craft a program of study that better suits her interests and career goals. As your teen researches colleges, have her check for this option.

Career counseling services Colleges encourage students to visit the career services office during freshman year to learn about various career paths and suitable majors. Check out the quality of this office at the colleges on your student’s list. Consider stopping in when you finish the campus tour or make an appointment in advance to allow your student to talk with a counselor about his interests.

Academic advisers A good one can help a student focus her interests and guide her to a major where she can succeed academically and after graduation. Encourage your teen to apply to colleges that require students to meet with their adviser regularly.

Freshmen seminar courses Look for colleges that offer these one-credit courses, which can include a focus on selecting a major.

Think before you speak Adults love to complain about their jobs and this can discourage kids from choosing a career path. They don’t understand that there’s a difference between liking what you do but not who you do it for. Encourage adults around your family to filter their comments, as well. Instead, ask them to talk about their jobs if they enjoy what they do.

Grad school is practically a given these days With that in mind, understand your student can use his undergrad years to study a subject or two that really interests him, become an educated and knowledgeable person (the goal of college), and then decide what to do next. There is no major for prelaw; an MBA doesn’t require a business degree; and most premed programs mean majoring in a natural science.

If your student chooses to apply “undeclared,” don’t freak out. Instead, work together to find the right college(s) for her. At many colleges, a student can’t declare a major or apply to a program until after sophomore year anyway.

Were you undeclared as a freshman or has one of your kids chosen this path? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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