Second-year undergraduate students in the U.S. have a special item on our checklist: declaring a major.
To me, the word “declare” sometimes sounds a little grandiose in a comical way: something solemn, resembling the Declaration of Independence, maybe? Yet, “declaring a major” is also important, somewhat daunting, and often accompanied by much pressure. Indeed, “declare” fits this endeavour. Among other factors, declaring our major requires much thought in the decision making process, which is often characterised by indecision – going back and forth between one option and the other, carefully evaluating the pros and cons of each potential choice, and debating with everyone (especially ourselves) about the decision.
The four-year education experience would not be complete without a major. It is the centrepiece in determining which classes we shall take, and with which professors and peers we will spend the most time navigating the academic journey.
Reflecting on the reasons why I decided to study at a liberal arts college in the U.S in the first place, a lot of it had to do with the relative flexibility in having the option to first explore a range of academic disciplines before finalising my decision (as compared to the UK, for instance, where students are expected to have a clear sense of a degree concentration prior to applying). It also offered a good balance between breadth and depth in studying various fields with a specific specialisation.
One of the highlights of deciding on a major is the endless informational sessions, socials, and other events that different academic departments host. To convince you that theirs is the best major ever, they use everything from enticing desserts to equally impressive human resources: student liaisons, current majors, faculty members, and alums passionate about their field.
Despite the fact that these events often actually make it even more difficult to decide, they are helpful in broadening our horizons. After all, not everyone falls in love with the field they were passionate about in secondary school.
With so many fascinating academic disciplines each begging to be chosen, I, like many students who have diverse interests and passions, spent months picturing what the future would hold with each potential major – even considering that my career path might not be directly related to that major. And … (drum roll, please)
On March 3, 2016, I found myself standing in front of Carnegie Hall at Pomona College – a classy building somewhat resembling the White House itself – with a piece of paper and a smile.
I declare … that I am majoring in politics!