When Should Students Declare Their Major: Why you don’t always have to begin with the end in mind

By: Sarah Westmoreland

Better to begin with the end in mind. But, you don’t have to. Often students in high school are pressured on every side to try and figure out what they want to do with their professional life, get the highest SAT score, be in numerous extracurriculars and get high grades all in preparation for the next stage of life: college. But, the thing is you don’t have to declare your major immediately. Like any decision, there are benefits and consequences to choosing them too early or too late. 

At Eastern, students must declare their major by the spring of their sophomore year.

The rising enrollment rates will likely increase the percentage of students who will either change their major or enter an undeclared major. This specifically applies to the ones who were pressured by their parents to declare a certain major, the ones who had many things they wanted to do so couldn’t settle on one, or to the one who was told going to college, in general, will most likely set you on the right path to success in life. 

Beth Kilby’s story can shed some light on the reality of struggling to find one’s major and the possible difficulty of declaring it later in the game. Now a senior Exercise Science major with a concentration in Occupational Therapy, Kilby knew she wanted to help the disabled in any way she could, but after being denied acceptance into the nursing program, she was left wondering what she was to pursue to achieve this goal. She took time to discover her interests by taking general education classes during her freshman year, and when she settled on her current major she shared with me that declaring her major “was not a smooth process as a sophomore” because of the requirements of the major.

As a declared Business Administration major myself I knew very little about this topic. But luckily I knew plenty of people who did. They will be the ones to shed light on just what the declaration process looks like and give you some insight into the best way to handle your situation. 

When should a student declare their major? 

“That depends on the student,” Dr. Al Socci, chair of the Undergraduate and MBA Programs, said. “If you are sure about what you would like to study it would be best to declare your major once you begin your freshman year and get with your advisor as soon as possible.”

“It depends on your major and how many majors you’re pursuing,” Dr. Kendall Cox, Director of Academic Affairs for the Templeton Honors College, said. “In a traditional Liberal Arts degree, you do not need to think about declaring before your second year, even well into the second semester. The idea is to study broadly the first couple of years of college, focusing on your General Education requirements. This is an exploratory period that exposes students to a variety of fields that may pique their interest in a particular department or discipline. Traditionally, a four-year degree is set up so that you can complete your major in the second half of your period of study.”

How does one declare their major? 

“Find the department chair within the program that you are interested in and ask any questions that you may have and they can get your declaration of major form processed,” Dr. Socci said.

“You go to the Registrar’s website, look under forms and fill out the one for declaring or changing your major,” Dr. Cox said.

Waltonian | The Waltonian Source: Eastern University Registrar

What do you recommend to freshmen and sophomores who are undecided? 

“Narrow it down to a few majors that you are interested in. Then take the introductory courses within those majors and that should help you to determine your interest level. I would also suggest speaking with faculty in those departments,” Dr. Socci said.

“First, do not stress out about it,” Dr. Cox said. “Second, enjoy studying widely. Keep your mind and heart open. This is likely the only time in life you have dedicated to learning for the sake of learning. You may be surprised by what will draw your attention. Third, start talking with professors as soon as you can. That’s what we’re here for. We enjoy fielding existential and vocational questions a lot more than signing forms and are happy to talk you through your discernment process.”

Keep in mind, this advice is from advisors, so they are coming from a supporting perspective. 

The consensus is in: you DO NOT have to feel obligated to declare your major your freshman year. But, please don’t sit back and relax thinking your future vocation is going to land in your lap, actively pursue your interest, talk to professors and seek counsel from those you trust. 

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