You sit impatiently in a waiting room that reeks of coffee and education. Three minutes past your meeting time and you’re already considering dropping out. Moments later, your name echoes from a nearby office. With a steady gait, you approach the threshold and walk inside. The advisor greets you with a warm welcome and a haphazard smile—you’re her 34th student thus far. After the ensuing conversation starters, the advisor asks you the million-dollar question. “So, what are you thinking your major will be?” Your palms sweat and your left eye twitches a little. You have no idea. Noticing the nervousness across your scared brow, the advisor asks another question. “What about an exploratory major?”
For starters, an exploratory major remains rather self-explanatory. For any college freshman or sophomore, these students earn the option to check off “exploratory” as their major. Declaring this major offers the indecisive ones a chance to explore their options. “The purpose of the Exploratory major is to provide a guided process through which students can explore major options and confidently declare a major,” explained Academic Advisor Hannah Recinella.
Smart or stupid?
In fact, choosing an exploratory major could indeed become one of the best decisions you make throughout your college career. Oftentimes, students endure different experiences within this major. Senior Kaylee Coots said, “I stayed exploratory as long as I was allowed to and then I chose a different major to declare than the one I’m in now, changed three more times, and then finally decided the one I wanted to do.” I feel your pain, Kaylee. Take it from someone (me) who literally changed their major five times. Not once or twice, but five.
Senior Sophie Kuzma had a different experience. When asked what classes throughout the exploratory major made her determine an English major, her answer was surprising. “Actually none of the classes…I came into school with so many English credits I don’t think I took a class until my sophomore year. It was a combination of not having a single English class for the first time and realizing I missed it, and just doing really well in any of my classes that relied heavily on writing.”
Do we have time for a funny anecdote? Yes? Okay.
So, when I attended Florida State University’s Orientation for incoming freshmen, I found myself in a classroom with a gaggle of other 18-year-olds. An advisor stood at the front and rambled on and on about the importance of choosing a major best fit for you. “Who all has decided to partake in an exploratory major?” she asked. A few kids raised their hands. My immediate thought: “Is ‘exploratory’ some kind of science? Those kids must be really intelligent.” I should be smacked, honestly.
As it turns out these kids were still actually intelligent, even though “exploratory” somehow turned out to not be, in fact, a science. Their kind of intelligence stems from a bravery and willingness to explore their options.
We get it. Picking a major is like picking out two side dishes to accompany your steak—hard and unsettling. What if you choose French fries and green beans, but the green beans come out too salty? “What now? I just can’t figure it out. What now? I guess I’ll just wait it out…wait it out. What now? Oh, oh, oh, oh! What now?” Sorry, my inner Rihanna came out. I hate it when that happens.
On a more serious note, toughing up and choosing an exploratory major will benefit you greatly. This is the rest of your life we’re talking about, and taking some time to mull your options over can only create eternal bliss in the end. Think this major wastes student’s time? Aside from the crummy college classes you’re required to take, my major technically only took me a year and half to finish. I’m no math major, but that leaves you with two and a half years of college tuition going towards what? “Exploratory is definitely not a waste of time for students! In fact, it’s often the opposite, as we try to prevent students from taking irrelevant courses,” explained Recinella.
So I’d say you have plenty of time to explore different career fields. Imagine waking up to attend a chemistry class in order to spark any love for science and by lunch you’re sitting in an Intro to Business class to see if there’s an inner businesswoman inside of you.
Need facts? According to the New York Times, “Colleges and universities reported nearly 1,500 academic programs to the Department of Education in 2010; 355 were added to the list over the previous 10 years …” Specifically, the University of Michigan and Arizona State offer students around 250 majors to choose from. What. 80% of freshmen at Penn State have a foggy idea of what major to choose. According to the University of Florida, 38 percent of UF students change their major by the end of their first year. By the end of their sophomore year, 61 percent of UF students change their major. I don’t make the rules, guys. Overall, freshmen and sophomore students try their hardest to dig deep and find their passion, but how will they unravel a passion without exploring?
College years give students the opportunity to find themselves. To find their niche, their political views and their lifelong hopes and dreams.