Declaring a Major
Andriana writes about her journey to declaring a major!
Andriana writes about her journey to declaring a major!
I hope you are having a wonderful and healthy start to spring, and enjoying the beautiful weather (wherever you are!). It was so nice to have a short break before jumping into spring term, which began this week. Of the many ways I spent my break, one of the most important was… declaring my major! Woohoo!!!
Before getting into my own major declaration, I’ll share a bit about the general process.
What does it mean to declare a major?
When you declare a major, you are officially selecting an area of study at your college. The key word here is “officially”! While declaring a major sounds like a big deal, some sort of “point of no return,” it is really more of a formality. By the time you declare, you have already accrued a bunch of credits and likely taken at least one class in the department of your major. Because of this, declaring a major is essentially telling the college how to process the credits you’ve earned, and which credits you still need before you graduate.
So why is it exciting?
The way I describe the process makes it sound relatively boring and unimportant. In reality, it kind of is! That said, it can still be exciting—it was for me! Whether you have always known exactly what you want to do, or else have had to do a lot of exploration and self-reflection, declaring a major is an accomplishment. You have put in the time and effort to consider your interests, your passions, to the extent that you are making a commitment to study a discipline in depth. In this sense, it can kind of feel like a declaration of identity—this is who I am, this is what makes me tick.
A quick caveat…
The major you declare does not have to be your final choice! You can change your mind, you can declare two majors, and you can declare one or more minors. I consider these options as opportunities. One of the best things you can do for yourself in college is keep an open mind. The chance to change your mind is a gift!
How do you actually declare your major?
This depends on the school! At Carleton, however, the process is quick and very easy. Students log into their profile, choose the “Declare a Major” option, and select their major from the dropdown menu. The student has then officially declared her major!
When do most students declare a major?
Carleton differs from many schools by requiring that students wait to declare a major. Whereas some schools allow—or even encourage—students to declare a major as soon as possible, Carleton asks that students not commit to a single discipline right away. As such, the major declaration form does not become available until students’ sixth term, which for most is the spring term of sophomore year.
This practice aligns with the spirit of the liberal arts education, which encourages academic exploration and a diversity of interests. As such, the school asks (and requires!) that Carls take classes in a variety of departments, discouraging them from entering Carleton having definitively decided upon a major. I personally love this approach, as I see college as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and recognize new possibilities and potential.
My experience with declaring a major…
Another reason why I love Carleton’s approach to major declarations is that I have changed my mind a few times since starting at Carleton. Let’s go through each version of my major declaration plan!
When I started as a freshman, I was confident that I wanted to major in political science, and possibly double major with English. In fact, I was more than confident! I was nearly certain, to the extent that I might have gone ahead and declared a political science major had it been immediately available to me.
After my first term at Carleton, however, I realized two things:
- I do not love political science.
- I do love English.
This is not to dis political science; it is a fascinating field, and I have taken great courses in the department since that first term. BUT. I do not enjoy it enough to dedicate my studies solely to the discipline.
Instead, I realized just how much I love literature and writing. My first term at Carleton, I took a course called The Gothic Spirit in the English department. I was initially really nervous about the class, especially when 100 pages of reading were assigned on the first day. (I am a slow reader, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up.)
Despite this, the course ended up being one of my favorites at Carleton! I loved the readings and found that my writing improved significantly throughout the term (and has continued to do so, thanks to the guidance of many patient professors).
By winter term of my first year, I knew that I wanted to major in English. At that point, however, I was still considering a double major with political science. Although I knew I wasn’t overly interested in continued studies in the field, I was concerned about career prospects for an English major. I felt like I needed a back-up plan.
After talking to my advisor and doing some soul-searching, I decided that a double major was not the right path for me. It would require an extra comps, meaning that I would likely begin planning my junior year. A double major also doubles the number of credits, so that I would have less freedom to take courses in other departments. I realized that, to me, pursuing a double major was not worth the sacrifices.
It wasn’t until the spring term of my freshman year, then, that I made peace with my decision to major in English (and English alone). Luckily, third time’s the charm, or so they say, and I have now declared an English major! During my time at Carleton, I have only had positive experiences with the department, so I’m really happy to finally be a part of it.
I have spent the past year researching possible career paths, in part to have a better response to questions of Really? An English major? What are you going to do with that?! (I currently just kind of mumble and go red in the face, which doesn’t say much for my communication skills.) In doing so, I have learned that there are so many choices for students in this discipline. Strong writing and, yes, effective communication are crucial in literally every field. Knowing this has made me feel much more secure in my decision.
Don’t be afraid of changing your mind in college! It really is a blessing, not a curse. Also, be true to yourself and your interests. My parents tell me this constantly, and while I usually shrug it off in the moment, it’s great advice. I could have chosen a discipline with ostensibly better career options, especially in STEM. But I am not a STEM person! I would probably be miserable! Luckily, Carleton–and many colleges in general–has excellent resources to connect students with opportunities. So take advantage of the choices you have (and worry about the details later).
Andriana is a sophomore at Carleton, where she plans to major in English and minor in Cross-Cultural Studies. Although she is spending the year at home in Richmond, VA, Andriana is already excited to return to Carleton in the fall. When she isn’t busy studying, Andriana can be found binge-reading, playing music, or watching a favorite movie or show for the umpteenth time. Meet the other bloggers!