Major Answers to Your Major Questions, When to Declare

Several folders containing career ideas for different majors in the ‘What can I do with this major?’ display at the Career and Internship Center. Located downtown in the Ludington Center, the center provides resources for students looking for counseling on their future plans (Photo by Bonnie Lord).

According to an email sent by the Director of the Career and Internship Center Troy Kase on Friday, there are currently 147 first-years, 54 sophomores, nine juniors and three seniors who all have one thing in common: they have not yet declared a major.

For students on the fence about whether to declare a major or not, Kase’s advice is to declare a major in something they’re interested in. 

“What I want for students to do is to attach thoughts about what they’re doing now to thoughts about the future,” Kase said. 

For one undeclared student, Albion first-year, Malachi Boyd, the hesitation to declare a major lies in his worry about choosing a major he won’t enjoy. 

“A lot of people say, ‘oh, your major is your passion,’ and my biggest worry is that I’m going to get a major and not be into it and find enjoyment,” Boyd said. 

According to Albion College’s website, there are more than 50 majors and minors offered at Albion, across 23 departments. Among these options, Kase said that finding the right major is a common concern for undeclared students like Boyd. 

“They want to choose the right major, the right career or one that they would be good at,” Kase said. “You can’t answer those questions, there is no right career – there is no right major.”

If a student finds that a major is not a good fit for them, Kase said the center can help advise students in changing their major, too. 

“I would still rather see a student declare a major and switch than stay undeclared and feel like they don’t know why they’re here,” Kase said.

A deck of cards used to help students think about their career values lies on a desk in the center. “It is just a pack of cards – and yet, it’s one of those exercises that every single time I do it with students, it’s meaningful, it’s impactful, it gets conversation,” Kase said (Photo illustration by Bonnie Lord).

Advice from an Albion Senior: ‘Find your Why’

Eddie Cardew, Sagola senior, said he started out at Albion College as a history major and English minor. During his second semester, he switched to a major in social studies with a secondary education concentration.

Before this, Cardew switched career paths entirely. 

In high school, Cardew was committed to a career in welding, until his junior year when his fume hood stopped working – and he had to leave the room because of the unsafe conditions. Immediately after this, another student dropped an uncooled weld onto the instructor’s desk, lighting it on fire.

“As I was sitting there, recovering from the fumes, I saw a bunch of flames and thought, ‘this isn’t my career path, I don’t want to do this for the next four years,” Cardew said.

Cardew thought about what he liked and what he was good at, deciding on history. His advice for undeclared students is to “find what sticks” and “your why.”

“Why are you here? What are you doing beyond just getting an education? What are you trying to get out of college?” Cardew said.

Support from the FYS program: ‘Don’t Feel Locked in’

Nels Christensen, professor of English and director of the First-Year Seminar (FYS) program, said via email that part of FYS mentors’ and advisors’ job is to help students understand the options available to them. 

“Lots of students come to Albion College aware of only a handful of majors and careers,” Christensen said via email. “It’s our job to help them see what’s out there and to guide them in their thinking about making the best choice for their future.”

Christensen’s advice for students feeling overwhelmed or confused about the process was to choose early, but to be open to switching majors, if that choice wasn’t the right one. 

“Studies show that students who pick a major early are more likely to stay in college and graduate,” Christensen said via email.

As for a timeline, Christensen suggests declaring a major by the end of one’s first year, but this shouldn’t make one feel like they can’t change their mind. 

“I’ve had advisees who changed their major as seniors and still managed to graduate (reasonably) on time,” Christensen said via email. “That’s rare, but it happens. Bottom line: don’t feel locked in.”

The Career and Internship Center: Declare a Major/Advisor Day

Kase said the Career and Internship Center provides resources to help students make these decisions by thinking about career paths, interests and values. One of the tools they provide is the strong interest inventory, a test that compares a student’s answers to those of people across 130 different occupations – all of which indicate they are satisfied with their job. 

“If you looked at my values results, they would be dead-on with what I do,” Kase said. “Helping others, wanting to see societal benefit, things like that. In my opinion, values are more important than interests.”

Another option for support the Career and Internship Center offers is the Declare a Major/Advisor Day – an event which according to Kase’s email, has historically been able to reduce undeclared students by 20%. The center invites different departments to participate, conversing with students about the options available to them. Kase said the goal of the event is to give students the opportunity to learn more about different majors, declare a major and find an advisor in their field of study. 

This year’s Declare a Major/Advisor Day event will be held on Feb. 13 in Upper Baldwin from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and will see the return of the Declare a Major award, given to the department that sees the greatest increase in major declarations during the event. 

Kase said he thinks of the path students follow through their college career as a river, and “sometimes you’ll end up in a spot that you didn’t intend to, but thoroughly enjoy it.”

“I liken it to white water rafting – you’re going down that river, whether you like it or not. You can make some choices to steer in certain directions and avoid some rapids – or maybe jump in and have a little fun,” Kase said. “But you’re going to go down that river.”

About Bonnie Lord 40 Articles
Bonnie Lord is a sophomore from Alma, Michigan and is an environmental science major at Albion College. She investigates questions of infrastructure, water quality and the changing relationship the community of Albion navigates with the environment. She enjoys bird watching, reading, and dismantling the patriarchy. Contact Bonnie via email at BFL10@albion.edu

1 Comment

  1. If you are interested in a major that pays huge dividends – in particular low unemployment and top-notch pay – consider any flavor of engineering, mathematics, statistics, or data science. Albion has an excellent track record of placing graduates into successful careers and/or top-flight graduate programs. However, if this type of career is of interest to you, it is very important to make progress in your math classes from your first year at Albion since, by their very nature, such classes have to be taken in sequence. If you have any questions, please reach out to me at dmason@albion.edu.

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