The College Student’s Major Crisis

Too many directions… and “Siri” can’t assist you this time…

If you’re anything like me, you’re an undeclared LSA student at the University of Michigan… and you have no idea what you want to do with your life. I feel lost, considering the possibilities for my future are endless. It’s scary to have to surrender my future to one set career path. In the program of Literature, Science, and The Arts, I have the leniency of taking an array of classes across the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, foreign languages, electives, and more. I have so much freedom, that quite frankly, the choices overwhelm me. In turn, this evokes fear within- What major will I enjoy most and find success in? How much does a high paying salary matter to me? Do I want to work in a team structure? Despite the swarm of uneasy emotions, the structure of LSA’s requirements can be helpful in narrowing the pathway to success. On the other hand, UM students might not need the guidance.

Truthfully, I stick with the LSA program because I’m too fearful of commitment. I don’t want to restrict myself from other

Perhaps, fear needs to be embraced, as it comes naturally in life

possible career choices. That’s why I’m testing out the waters, first. I am fearful of my own future. I fear that I will take an unsuccessful or non-fulfilling career path. I inflict this intensity of fear upon myself- this feeling does not entail other people. This relates to Hobbes’ theory in the Leviathan that people are naturally fearful. However, Hobbes believed that this fear was ignited between people… not within the person himself. Under the sovereignty, Hobbes also claims that people can be free if the subjects are guided under such power, as when he states, “Only when the subject has forsworn his own fear and power to the sovereign to be used as tools is he absolutely free”. On the contrary, I act as my own sovereign as a student. I, as an individual, have the freedom under the structure of LSA’s requirements to choose what to study in LSA. In fact, I am free to switch to the Kinesiology School or drop out of school altogether. I have the upmost freedom to do whatever IS please.

Although the structure of LSA is suitable for me, it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Students, such as the Musical Theater Majors might come to UM with a set path. They might not need that sense of freedom to choose their major- they have no fear of commitment. Luckily, they were able to discover their passions earlier than the realm of undecided students.  However, because the musical theater students must take specific courses beginning with freshman year, they have little leeway in receiving a liberal arts education. This can be a potential restriction of possible passions that these committed students have yet to encounter. Just because these students don’t have the same freedom to explore other majors, does that mean that they no longer have fear? They have more of a sense of direction than most, but still, young adults are bound to be skeptical. These students don’t feel so lost and scared, but some may still question where life’s next step will lead them.

On the other hand, I recently met a girl named Sarah in “The Art of Film” class. She was originally an engineering major but dropped this path of study halfway through her freshman year. Instead, she decided to major in communications because she realized that she didn’t want to stop taking writing courses. She really loved writing, though she didn’t realize what she truly loved until she didn’t have it anymore. In fact, she claims that she only went into engineering because she was advanced by two years in her high school math courses. Some people think that this is the reason that LSA is so great- it can show you what you’re missing out on before you commit to one major. Nevertheless, some people don’t quite agree with the liberality of the LSA requirements. Today, she plans to double major in film production and communications. As a junior in college, she is now figuring out her pathway. She even found that her class credits overlap, so she’ll still be able to graduate within four years.

Even though LSA students have all of this freedom, it typically has a way of working itself out in the end. Discovery just might come later for some than others. So, is this freedom good to have? Should we restrict ourselves by choosing a major too early? Is it good to feel lost in a major? It might be good to start from scratch. Some people claim that the liberality of the LSA structure doesn’t work, yet some people say it does. Many argue that it works because we have the freedom to test an array of diverse classes. The more we explore, the more we can eliminate options and gain insight to new possibilities. Nonetheless, others say it doesn’t work because the students are overwhelmed with the endless possibilities to fulfill their requirements. Students may spend so much time over their first two years of college fulfilling these requirements that they still don’t know what they want to major in by the end of sophomore year. By the time they fulfill their requirements, they are set behind and might have to graduate late. Granted, some could be as lucky as Sarah by having an overlap of class credits. Nevertheless, the freedom of LSA continues to help some, while discouraging others. Truly, there’s no correct way to maneuver through a college course guide. Perhaps, it would nice to look into a crystal ball and see what we all become of ourselves. It would relieve some of that fear, yeah? Still, we would then be restricting ourselves of our own freedom to major in whatever subject we want. Maybe, it’s good to feel lost after all…

Do you dare peek into your future? Oh wait, you can’t.

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6 comments

  1. sklokiw · November 7, 2014

    I found this post thought-provoking because I feel as though we’re in very similar positions: I’m also a freshman in LSA, undecided, and generally fearful of what lies ahead. I think the beauty of the Michigan is the sheer amount of resources available to students. Contrary to Hobbes’ theory, we as students are not bound to a sovereign ruler: we have an incredible amount of freedom and this might be what may even scare some undecided students. But I think it’s a good scared: as students, we incorporate both Locke and Rousseau’s ideas into our campus community. While we are all individuals, we all have the power to decide for ourselves our own path within the university (Locke believed that human nature allows us to be selfish) yet we are all united and proud of our institution, the University of Michigan (Rousseau was all for The Team, The Team, The Team).

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  2. jbaren · November 8, 2014

    Like gretandr and sklokiw, I am also an undecided freshman in LSA with no clear path of what I want to study. Although you might be fearful of your future, gretandr, you might want to step back and take a deep breath; you shouldn’t be so worried. We’re first semester college freshman taking three or four courses that were either of interest to us or taken because we thought we wanted to go one path and it was a prerequisite. I recently dropped a class that was a perquisite for Ross because I wasn’t doing so well, but for the most part because I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would and it was putting more stress on me than necessary. After talking to my LSA advisor, I was relieved as I was assured there’s plenty of other options. I was pushing myself to choose a career path before I had explored a variety of studies. That’s why LSA is great. Like you said, it has endless possibilities. It doesn’t help to be fearful of what’s to come. It may just require you to take a step back and realize that you really are just beginning your path to finding what you love. Additionally, what you said about fulfilling the LSA requirements is true, and many people stress over them. It doesn’t help to do this. Instead, take a variety of classes in your freshman and beginning of sophomore year. The requirements will most likely work themselves out, and if not you can fulfill what’s left in your sophomore year, but at least take this year to really explore different studies if you’re undecided. Lastly, what you say about Hobbes I agree with; “However, Hobbes believed that this fear was ignited between people… not within the person himself.” In the college sense, fear is definitely formed between people as it’s sort of like a competition. A competition for grades, and eventually success. It’s unfortunate that there’s so much competition, but try not to let it get to you.

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  3. prvalera · November 8, 2014

    I thought this post was very relatable because I am also an undeclared freshman in LSA. I have also found the numerous classes and majors/minors very daunting. I have no idea what I want to do with my life, but the way that the school of Literature, Science, and the Arts is very skilled at helping me narrow down my interests. The variety of the subjects taught, and the flexibility that LSA allows is very beneficial to me as an undecided freshman. I agree when you say that you act as a “sovereign as a student”. We have the power to make our own decisions regarding our majors and/or minors. We can pick and choose our classes. We are allowed to change our minds if we would like to take a different class, or even attend a different school within the university. Using this sovereign “power” of ours we can decide what path we want to take and how we will walk on it.

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  4. dinaakhmetshina · November 9, 2014

    I agree with the previous comments made about this post. I think this is a striking parallel to draw. When reading Leviathan, I never considered to think of it from the perspective of myself being a “sovereign as a student.” As such, we It’s very accurate to say that as students, we sign away power to the school as an institution out of fear. This fear is very much characterized by an uncertainty in our future and I think that this post did a good job of capturing and interpreting this fear in a hobbesian context. However, I somewhat disagree with the idea of students of LSA having nearly limitless freedom, when in the post itself you reference requirements, which are lightly glossed over.

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  5. ayoubl · November 9, 2014

    Very interesting comparison between declared and undeclared students. While reading this blog I could not help but question the power that high school courses have on incoming freshman. For instance, given the position of the girl who had transferable credits for a major in engineering. How would her choice in major been different if she had instead entered the university with transferable credit for an english major or other degree? It is interesting to question whether whether students with a chosen major are driven by fear. While some students may be extremely dedicated to a field, other students may have committed early by fear of the unknown. The unknown that comes with entering a university undecided. Like many students also entered the University undecided, and have only most recently decided on a concentration. However, even now that I am decided on a path that I not only find exciting but genuinely interesting, I am still fearful. What happens if I change my mind? Will I be able to graduate if I decide later that this is not the right path for me? While some students may not be driven by fear to decide on a major, they presumably still experience fear in other ways. Perhaps fear is the driving force to do well in their already declared major, as it is for many students. I do not think the important question is whether or not students are driven by fear but rather what their fear drives them to do.

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  6. rplamp · November 10, 2014

    The previous comments all make great points. I have just started to understand where my true interests are and I owe some of that to my counselor who told me to take classes that seem interesting even if that wasn’t part of my original plan. I would have to sort of agree with Hobbes. I feel that most students experience this fear with choosing majors because there is so much freedom and not many people are used to that. In high school there were choses to be made but they were few and they were not going to shape the rest of your life. The requirements in college are not as plentiful as those in high school and there are many courses to fulfill them. To me it is very interesting to see how this new freedom affects some people. Most students come into freshman year with an idea or a plan but even now, nearing the end of the first semester, many of those plans have changed. I do not believe that this fear of the unknown is necessarily a bad thing because it gives students the opportunity to grow and experience things that interest them so that they may decide what they want to focus on and do for the rest of their lives.

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