Should You Declare a Major?

Are you thinking ahead to your freshman year of college but feeling unsure about exactly what you want the focus of your studies to be?  You’re not alone!  

Are you thinking ahead to your freshman year of college but feeling unsure about exactly what you want the focus of your studies to be?  You’re not alone!  

Dr. Hal Fulmer, Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate and First Year Studies and Director of the John W. Schmidt Center for Student Success at Troy University, gave us some insight.

What would you say to a new student who may have some anxiety about choosing a major right away? 

We understand that choosing a major is among the most important decisions a college student will make. At Troy, we realize that students often pick their majors based on questionable reasons.  Many times, I hear a student indicate that their mom or dad (or both) or a family friend told them, “You need to major in…” and so the student did. We remind students that we don’t expect them to know what they want to do for the next 40 years of their lives. What we do remind students of is that picking a major is closely linked to identifying three critical areas about themselves:  

  1. What do you like and dislike?   
  2. What are your skills and what skills would you be willing to improve?   
  3. What do your likes/interests, along with skills, suggest for a particular major?  

What are the biggest downsides to declaring a major as a freshman? 

In many ways, and at many institutions, it is a positive step for students to spend their first year exploring possible majors and career options, and making good progress through their university’s general studies/general education program. Obviously, some students come in already clearly committed to particular fields of study. However, in many instances, students find themselves in majors where they are increasingly less committed and less interested, even at the introductory level of classes.

Student success, retention, and progression is closely tied to a student’s interest in and commitment to their major. In the long run, it’s probably worthwhile for many students to consider their first year as a kind of “structured exploration” before they commit to a major, especially before they take upper-level major courses.  With current financial aid policies, as well as undergraduate degree programs that provide few (if any) free electives, a student who changes their major later on in their college career will likely have to stay enrolled longer, delaying graduation and incurring more student debt. 

So it’s okay to not declare a major right away? 

At Troy University, we offer incoming students the opportunity to be designated as “Undeclared Majors” for their first year. We have a special advising team in our John W. Schmidt Center for Student Success, and they work closely with our Careers Office to explore potential majors and career choices. Students can take TROY 1102, which is a course designed to assist students in the selection of both their major and career.

Undeclared student majors have the chance to work through the university’s general studies program, which has been revised to provide more options for sampling potential majors by taking introductory-level classes (We think of it as a “tasting menu”!). They also have opportunities to become involved with the Office of Civic Engagement and connect to a variety of other students and stakeholder groups. At the end of your first year as an undeclared major, you are assisted in selecting an academic major and are connected by our JWS Center staff to your new departments and new advisors. 

Dr. Hal W. Fulmer holds a Ph.D. in communication from Louisiana State University and a Master’s degree in speech from the University of Georgia. He is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, the Order of Omega, and Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Circle.  

Undeclared Major Advising 

If you are unsure what you want to declare as your major, check with the universities you plan to apply to and ask what resources they have available to undeclared students!   

For example, as an undeclared student at Auburn University at Montgomery, you have access to: 

  • One-on-one advising with an assigned advisor who can assist you in choosing a major by asking pertinent questions, making campus contact referrals, introducing you to departmental curricula, and administering various interest inventory surveys.
  • The Student Success Battery, designed to help you narrow down your interests.
  • FOCUS2, an online assessment tool used by the Career Development Center.

For more information about attending AUM as an undeclared student, contact Amber Evans at 334-244-3808 or

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