How to choose a major without really trying

Last week, I stood behind a table alongside one of my professors, and chatted with freshman and sophomores about the Children’s Studies minor. Our table was one out of upwards of 70 tables, which goes to show the depth and breath of WashU’s academic offerings. These tables were part of an annual event WashU puts on, called the Major/Minor Fair.

WashU is a great place to have no idea what you’re doing. By that I mean we’re really friendly and supportive towards students who are undecided about their major. The Major/Minor Fair is a perfect example of this; administration and faculty work together to put together a valuable, high-quality event that allows students to connect with any (or every!) academic department in a low-stress environment.

Declaration Timeline

Another way WashU supports undecided students is by not requiring any student to declare a major until February of their sophomore year. This helps even the students who weren’t expecting that policy to be helpful. Sophomore-year me fell into that particular category; all along I had planned on majoring in Biology, but halfway through sophomore year I discovered the Global Health major (sort of a fun combination of biology and social science) and fell in love. Even though my mental plan shifted I never had to switch my major because I hadn’t declared Biology in the first place!

Academic Freedom

WashU has also a very nice balance of academic freedom and required curriculum. As an underclassman, I was grateful for some generalized graduation requirements to help me choose my first classes and imagine the way my four years would look. At the same time, I rarely feel restricted by the need to build in all my graduation requirements to the courses I choose. Usually, the courses I want to take are the courses I get to take.

Final Thoughts

This week, I felt particularly old as I chatted with eager freshman about the Children’s Studies minor. Their college experiences are just beginning, whereas the bulk of mine is behind me. In talking with them, I was able to offer advice beyond just Children’s Studies, but regarding extracurriculars, other majors, and pre-professional pathways. It’s absolutely mind-boggling to think about how much a person grows, changes, and learns over just a few short years here. And while figuring out your major is a piece of that puzzle, keep in mind that it is just one piece of the vast amount of learning that takes place during your time as an undergraduate.