Saturday, November 2, 2013

Why College Freshmen Should Declare A Major

Some students know by seventh grade the path they want to pursue.  Others have no idea the career path that interests them.  Many students enter their first year of college as an Undeclared major.  They intend to get their basic subjects out of the way while they explore and contemplate their career options.

Of my five children who have gone to college, only one entered freshman year as an undeclared major and then I never allowed that again.  It seemed like a logical choice for that student since she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and she was a little bit afraid to declare a major for fear she would be ‘stuck’ with that choice forever.

Why do I not allow Undeclared majors anymore?

When a student declares a major at a college or university, they are eligible for departmental scholarships.  The college/university gives scholarships to undeclared majors, but most departments also have money specifically for their students.  Some of these scholarships are available to entering freshmen; some are only available to upperclassmen.  Undeclared majors do not qualify for departmental scholarships as they are not connected to a particular department.

What if your student really is undecided?  Declare a major anyway.

My third child was undecided, but I told him he must declare a major.  I didn’t care what it was or if he changed later (as many students do), but he must declare a major.  He chose piano performance and ended up with a very nice scholarship that included stipends.  He later added a second  major, but his education was mostly paid for.  In his case, the department had just added an endowed professor and there was money for piano students in the predominantly band-oriented music department.

If your student is interested in two different options, declare a double major.  This is common at many schools.  Sometimes, that will put your student in two different departments which might give two different scholarship opportunities.

During college, your student should always see what scholarships are available to upperclassmen.  Many students look really hard for freshman scholarships, but forget that scholarships do exist for later years.  Students should check the college and department websites of their university to find out what is available.  Be sure to check application deadlines.

Have your student declare a major, but allow them to change their mind later. 

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