Voices of Simmons

From the Woman on Campus: 8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Decided to be Undecided

“So, what’s your major?”


There’s that question again. It’s basically asking, “Hey, what are you investing all these resources into school for? What’s the big idea here?”

So, when you say, “Actually, I’m undecided,” they hear, “Actually, I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. I might drop out of school halfway through and join the circus. Life’s too short, ya know?”

I’ve been undecided for almost two years. I’ve created a list of pros and cons to sum up the experience:

  • Pros: No one tells you what to do.
  • Cons: No one tells you what to do.

So, with that in mind, if you're thinking about entering school without declaring a major, I've created a list that won't tell you what to do, but might help you navigate this process.

Eight things I wish I knew before deciding to be undecided.
 

1. You aren’t going to figure it out in one night.

Do yourself a favor: stop scrolling through the course catalog at 2 am and just go to sleep.

Have you ever had that late-night McDonald’s Sprite energy where you suddenly have to get your life together? Yeah, me too. Maybe just stick to cleaning your room instead of choosing what you want to do with your life.

2. People who’ve decided their major don’t have their life any more together than anyone else.

Life is unpredictable, and no one knows what the next moment holds. That’s just what it means to be human. Please remind yourself of this the next time you compare yourself to someone else’s journey.

3. It’s a privilege to be undecided. And it’s a challenge I’m grateful to have.

My nani was the first woman in my lineage to get a college education and enter the workforce. My ma decided on her profession as a young girl, but now she wonders how life would be different if she were given the opportunity to explore other options. I’m the first child in my family to pursue an undergraduate degree in the United States.

There are a lot of unknowns, and it’s not like I can rely on a legacy to determine my path. While I feel pressure to make those who came before me proud, I know that my very choice to explore different facets of my identity is one they never got to make. I know that I am on the path to claiming my education — that uncertainty and fear can also be seen as intrigue and excitement. 

4. Your major cannot and will not define you. It’s just a piece of your journey.

During my gap year, I met people who went to college for a major and ended up going to grad school for something completely different. Or was it really that different? Doesn’t every field of study offer a different perspective? Can’t knowledge complement other knowledge? Can learning something new ever be considered a waste?

No one has the answers but you.

5. People will try to give you advice on what to do next.

Some people will see your “dilemma” as a puzzle that they’re just itching to solve. One moment you’re getting coffee at the Fens, and the next moment you’re being pulled in for a surprise counseling session by a well-meaning peer. “Well, what are your interests? What do you wanna do with your life? I think you should…”

Breathe, smile, and nod. No one has the answers but you.

6. On the other hand, choose some mentors you can actually trust for advice.

I wouldn’t be where I am without genuine conversations with my professors. I like to ask them how they decided on their passion and whether they knew they’d be teaching at my age. I like to ask them about how they dealt with the unknown. They are human, after all, and have probably dealt with the same uncertainty you’re experiencing.

7. Continue to ask yourself why you are in college in the first place. Why is getting an education important to you?

Tests, papers, and general stress can cloud our judgment so that we forget what’s important to us. Here's a strategy I learned from Jamoul Celey that helps me recenter my motivations and acknowledge my challenges:

Jamoul Celey's strategy example: write goal or dream in the center of a circle and draw arrows pointing away from goal, representing supports, and arrows pointing towards the circle as challenges.
Template of Jamoul Celey's strategy.

Draw a circle in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Write what you want to get out of (insert long-term commitment here). You could use this for any big decision you have to make. Then, draw arrows coming out of the circle. On each arrow, label anything that is supporting the pursuit of your dream. Maybe it’s meaningful connections with your peers or the feeling you get when you complete an assignment. Now, draw arrows coming towards the circle. These symbolize the challenges that make it challenging to achieve your goal. It could be anything from stress to self-doubt.

Reassess your goal. Is it still realistic? Is it still worth it? If so, how will you continue to support yourself so that you can overcome the challenges? I do this exercise every few months to make sure I’m still aligned with my values and hopes for the future.

BIPOC students especially, check out Jamoul's Linkedin for more resources and support!

8. It’s okay not to love every class you take.

Even though I didn’t always connect with the material in each class, I still got to create projects that I can look back on with pride. Even though certain courses might not feel relevant to my life at the moment, a liberal arts education allows you to connect different disciplines that might not appear to be related at first. I still find myself reviewing my notes from these classes as the themes appear in my current courses. Also, I received the opportunity to talk to professors that I might not normally get a chance to interact with otherwise.

You only get to be an undecided college student once, so enjoy the highs and lows until the day of your decision. Remember that you are not alone in this process. And if you feel like you could use some extra guidance, schedule an appointment on Handshake with the Career Education Center

You are brave enough to resist instant gratification and easy answers. You are strong enough to stand in your uncertainty. You are supported by your professors during each twist and turn and change of heart. With this in mind, breathe and go onward.


Headshot of Saloni Kumar

Our Woman on Campus, Saloni Kumar ‘23, writes about her experience as a college student, giving us a closer view of the undergraduate culture of Simmons! 

Follow her on Instagram.

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