Why CSUF students are spending more time as undeclared majors

In Campus News, News
(Hannah Miller / Daily Titan)

Lack of commitment and uncertainty among college majors could be an explanation for students remaining undeclared for long periods of time.

In fall 2017, 12.7 percent of all 4,426 first-time freshmen entered Cal State Fullerton undeclared, according to data provided by CSUF’s Institutional Research and Analytical Studies department.

Along with the freshmen class, CSUF admitted 3,755 new transfer students. Of those transfers, 40.8 percent were undeclared at the time of enrollment.

“They have this notion that their major is going to dictate what they’re going to do for the rest of their life,” said College of Education Career Counselor Miguel Martinez.

Eventually all students must commit to a major so they can graduate.

Institutional Research conducted a study in fall 2015 that polled students on the perception of being undeclared.

According to the study, 54 percent of undeclared students felt they had more time to discover their interests, explore careers and gain experiences. Conversely, 46 percent had a fear of falling behind, felt a lack of direction and developed feelings of anxiety and worry.  

Sophomore Andres Salas said that it is hard being undeclared and feeling “lost” while seeing that a lot of students know what they want to do.

“I’m still trying to figure it out,” Salas said. “A lot of things appeal to me but I’m not sure which one I want to invest in, and have a future career and spend the rest of my life doing.”

CSUF Career Development and Academic Advising Specialist Janette Hyder said that there is a multitude of factors that keep students from declaring a major.

“They’re unaware of different majors that are available, or they don’t know what the major entails,” Hyder said. “Some students that I’ve met with, some of them did not want to be forced into something just yet, so they figured undeclared would be the best opportunity for them to explore.”

Hyder has collected data throughout the 2016-17 year by surveying students who attend her panels and workshops for undeclared majors.

Analytics from her survey suggest that students might not realize that they have options when it comes major exploration, especially in terms of branching out with a concentration while remaining in the same major.

She found that 50 to 70 percent of all undeclared college students also tend to change their major at least two to three times over the course of their college tenure.

“(Students) think they know what a major is, then they realize that it’s not what they thought it was,” Hyder said.

She said that pressure from certain peers or guardians is another key factor that ties into the prolonged process of declaring a major for some.

“What I have encountered when doing new student orientation and doing parent orientations is sometimes students declare majors because it’s like parental pressure,” Hyder said.

Despite specialists like Hyder and Martinez being available to help students find what major they want to pursue, the process can still prove to be difficult for some undeclared students.

“It seems like everyone knows where they’re going except me,” Salas said.

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