I have always been slightly envious of those who have a clear vision of the career path they want to pursue. I have never had that. Not because I am not exploring the possibilities, not because I am too picky, and definitely not for lack of passion. My problem is that I am curious and passionate about a great many things. I also have a chronic problem, called indecisiveness.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve considered changing my major, adding a double major, adding a minor (or dropping out of school entirely to become a full-time hippie/circus performer/travel writer) I would be a ridiculously wealthy woman.
Since pharmacies have not yet come out with a medication that cures indecisiveness, I have been self-labeled as an “Undercover Undecided” for two years. An “Undercover Undecided” is a term I made up for people who are pursuing a degree they are uncertain of. The term is especially fun because it can make you feel like a secret agent and can also be used as a tongue twister if you’re bored.
Being an “Undercover Undecided” is not always a comfortable place to be, but I promise you are not alone. Here are some things I learned when I decided to change my major:
If you don’t love it now, you will hate it later
Don’t leave here with regrets. Save yourself some money, time, and energy by figuring out what you enjoy and what you are good at. It’s not too late, even if you are a junior or senior. You might have to fast track, add another semester or even a year, but it will be better for you in the long run. Take an interest inventory at Career & Internship Services and discuss your results with a career counselor.
Forget other peoples’ expectations
Your family, friends, and academic advisors will always have advice and recommendations, but it’s your life to live. Expectations can box you in and make you feel trapped, and that feeling of helplessness is only an illusion. Trust your instincts more than advice. Be firm but gentle with the advice-givers in your life, they usually have good intentions.
Don’t let pride get the best of you.
It’s easy to get caught up with the idea of certain titles or the prestige associated with particular professions. You might like the idea of being an attorney or a freelance writer, but dig a little deeper and consider the lifestyle you are committing yourself to. Force yourself to consider the gritty, more unpleasant parts of the job and see if the bad outweighs the good. For more insight, set up an informational interview or shadow someone in the field.
Learning doesn’t go to waste
It’s difficult to work hard for something and then decide to let it go. If you switch majors you may regret the time you “wasted” learning things you may no longer consider relevant to your new field. It’s okay to be well-rounded, that’s why you are getting a liberal arts education. Your knowledge in two fields of study could be preparing you for an opportunity you never knew existed.
Take a Risk
Don’t think yourself out of it. Are you having more bad days than good days? Do you find fulfillment doing what you’re doing? If you have reoccurring doubts, you might need to make a change for the better. Try taking a class or joining a club that you think would be interesting. Take charge of your education. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.
If you think you might be an “Undercover Undecided” here are some helpful tools:
- What Can I Do with this Major? – this is a great link found on the Career Services page and helps you compare possible career paths.
- APAS – Go to APAS and generate a “What if?” You can select different majors and minors and see the requirements.
- Graduation Planner – Create a different plan, check out classes required for an alternative major – do they seem interesting?
- Graduate Follow-Up Report – Check out what recent graduates from UMD are doing with certain majors. Are they finding employment in their field? Can you picture yourself working for the organizations they are working for?
- Come to Career & Internship Services – Create a pros and cons list and come talk to a Career Counselor about it. There are personality and interest assessments that can pinpoint your strengths and inform you on careers you never considered.
Wrap up thought: If you choose the “wrong” major, don’t worry! You still have a college degree! There are LOTS of people doing things that aren’t related to their major. If you find a new interest, try to find opportunities to learn all you can from people that know more than you and gain some new experiences!