November 2, 2017
But Wait…I’m Undecided!!
Last month, we posted a blog about how major choice works in our application process and introduced #MajorMondays to our Twitter and Instagram platforms as one way to learn more about the programs of study USC offers. However, we (purposefully) failed to address an important issue…what if you’re undecided?
It’s not uncommon for students to be unsure about what they want to study in college. Your senior year is full of changes and, as you learn and grow, many students find new passions. The same is likely to happen in college—at USC you can major in disciplines such as philosophy, gender studies, gerontology, and computational neuroscience. We are well aware that most students will not be able to study these sorts of fields during high school, so we provide students the flexibility to “find” these majors during their college years. So not only is it totally normal to be less than certain of your major choice, but we actually expect that about 60% of our students will change their majors (at least once) in college. So what does all this mean for you? Let’s look at some of the questions we frequently get on the road…
When do students have to declare their major? Can I change my major after I’m admitted to USC?
Technically, you declare when you apply to USC because you must select a first choice major on the Common Application (you also have the option of listing a second choice major). As previously stated, however, it is possible to change your major once you get to USC—we have no interest in locking you into a program of study that isn’t right for you! If you decide to change your major or add on a double major, different departments will have different deadlines.
Most majors can easily be added or switched into. There are a couple, such as business and engineering, where you have to take some prerequisite courses (and do well in them) before transferring in. For talent-based majors, you will need to audition for the program or submit a portfolio (with the understanding that most BFAs require 4 years of major-related coursework). Remember that you can always add a minor (it is a much simpler process than the major)!
If you would like to learn more about the process of declaring majors, here’s a useful link: https://undergrad.usc.edu/programs/major/declaring/
Because I’m undecided, I don’t know what to list as my first choice major. What should I do?
Because you must list a first choice major (you can only list “undecided” as a second choice major), think about what you might want to study. What seems like a good starting point? This is not a binding decision by any means, but it is worth noting that most students who come in thinking they are undecided are already leaning toward a major or two. Because we ask about how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC, having a major in mind allows you to focus the discussion of your intellectual passions. Think about your interests and your strengths to pick what is the best fit for now.
If we can change our majors, why do we have to select one on our application?
Imagine you are standing in a forest (I’ve been doing a lot of hiking on the road…just go with this metaphor). You are at the trailhead and there are several paths you can take. Coming in undecided is like standing at the trailhead, staring at the paths, staring at your map, and struggling to take a step forward. If you begin with a major, you can head down one trail, find out pretty soon whether it’s the right path, then turn back around, and head the other way if need be. Once you begin at USC, you will meet with your academic advisor each semester. These professional counselors work specifically with students from your academic unit(s) (Marshall, Dornsife, Viterbi, etc.) and help you navigate your academic path.
Is it possible to start at USC as an undecided or undeclared student?
We do—rarely—admit students “undecided,” and it is possible to “undeclare” yourself. In the former case, these students are typically applicants who we think would be fantastic fits for USC, but were not fits for their first or second choice major. We still believe they belong at USC, but they will have to seriously consider if they have an academic interest outside of their initial choices. For the latter, these students have decided they definitely do not want to stick with their original major, but they have not yet decided on a new track. Becoming “undeclared” allows them to receive advising from a separate department until they figure things out.
In your senior year, you are making a lot of choices, and it’s common to feel decision fatigue. We can certainly understand the anxiety behind choosing a major, but hopefully this will help ease some of the fears: when you apply to USC, we are not asking you to pick a destination—we are asking you to pick a starting point! So choose your trail and see where it leads!
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