Major Uncertainty


Beyond the cap, gown and diploma, every student who graduates from DePauw has something else in common: a major. While some know what they want to study from day one, others are scrambling to decide up until the last minute.
The deadline for officially declaring a major falls during March of sophomore year. "Since many students wait until the deadline, most of the major declaration forms come pouring in at that time of year," said Julie Reed, coordinator of Registrar Services. For those who have yet to decide, they are not alone.
There are currently 982 students in the College of Liberal Arts who have not officially declared their major, according to Bill Tobin, director of Institutional Research. Sophomore Maggie Campbell is one of them.
Campbell came to DePauw confident that she would declare a major in communications. But after taking SOC100 Contemporary Society and College Writing, her thoughts changed.
"The whole process of just discovering what your strengths are as a student in your first year of college is a really important step to figuring out where you think your major will fit," Campbell said.
Now at the start of her third semester, Campbell is considering double majoring in English literature and sociology. But she finds comfort in knowing there are other sophomores, like her, who have yet to officially declare their major.
"I don't feel so alone," she said. "But I do think that when other people are looking at courses to register for and they know exactly what they need to take, other people get a little anxious because those of us who still don't really know are kind of trying to figure it out."
Kelley Hall, associate dean of Academic Life, suggests the 46 percent of CLA students who haven't declared their majors consider themselves to be exploring, rather than undecided.
"If you're exploratory, there is a deliberate purpose or movement towards making choices and exploring the possibilities that are available," Hall said. "Choosing a major is important, but there's so much more to being at DePauw and your life than the major that you choose."
Hall is responsible for academic advising, which includes overseeing the 220 faculty members who can potentially serve as advisors to students. Prior to declaring a major, each student must select an advisor from the field of study. With over 40 majors and 220 advisors to choose from, the process of declaring can be overwhelming.
For Ashley Guevera, a junior biology major, embracing the liberal arts approach was more important than immediately finding her major. Guevera had been interested in biology since high school, but didn't want to limit herself to one field of study in her first year.
"I've always been interested in a ton of different things," Guevera said. "I wanted to make sure that I didn't want to pursue any other options."
During her freshman year, Guevera enrolled in eight intro courses, ranging from digital art to kinesiology to Chinese. Even though she had been thinking about majoring in biology for a while, Guevera didn't take her first biology class until spring of her sophomore year. She officially declared biology as her major in March, just days before the deadline.
While Guevera hopes her major will lead her to research opportunities, junior JD Powell aspires to complete pre-med requirements. To accomplish this, Powell, currently a kinesiology exercise-science major, is in the process of switching into the biochemistry department.
"I was just through the first day of the next level [kinesiology] class that I'd had last semester," said Powell. "And I already knew, 'I don't know what happened over the summer, but I'm not excited about this anymore.'"
Powell became interested in pursuing pre-med last fall, when he took both organismal biology and organic chemistry. Since he completed most of the prerequisites during his sophomore year, Powell is now able to fill his schedule with upper level biology and chemistry courses.
Senior Marycruz Baylon was three courses short of completing a biology major when she lost interest in being pre-med. In her sophomore year, she enrolled in the communications class, High School Shakespeare, just to fulfill her arts and humanities requirement.
"It changed my life. That's where I knew that bio wasn't for me," Baylon said. "I cannot tell you how many times I was so happy to walk into that theater and talk with the kids and interact with all of them."
As the semester progressed, Baylon found she was more passionate about her communications course than her biology courses.
"The hardest part for me was explaining to my parents what communcation is because they were really excited for me to be a biology major," Baylon said. "They knew getting out of school, I really wanted to get into medicine, and that's all they knew."
Three semesters later, Baylon is proud to tell others she's majoring in communications and Spanish. She worked with last spring's High School Shakespeare class and hopes to do the same again this year. Baylon also serves as a co-coordinator for the Tzousnskis Spanish Enrichment program, which has given her the opportunity to teach Spanish to local middle schoolers. Baylon said her interactions with area students and professors have inspired her to pursue education as a potential career.
According to Hall, once students graduate, it isn't uncommon for them to have jobs differing from their majors.
"I think we all have broader interests, goals, desires and talents so our major doesn't sum up who we are," Hall said. "College and DePauw is a step to the rest of your life. You'll leave here with skills regardless of what you major in."