It’s okay not to know: My experience starting college completely undeclared

“Share your name, your pronouns, your major, your hometown, and a fun fact about yourself.” It’s an introduction I must have been asked to share fifty times in my first week of college, probably 300 times by the end of my first year. But on the first day of Golden Bear Orientation, the soon-to-be common icebreaker took me by surprise. I listened to the forty-four other members of my group confidently list Molecular Cell Biology, Computer Science, Business, and a few other topics as their intended majors. When it came to be my turn, I was the first and last person to say “I have absolutely no idea what I’m studying.”

Like so many others, from the second I started thinking about college, adults began asking me what I wanted to study. I was able to rule out topics in science, math, and engineering, not because I was bad at them but because I had no interest in furthering my studies there. Beyond that, I was completely lost. Reading descriptions of programs in the social sciences piqued my interest, but it was unfathomable to me to tell people I wanted to study a topic I hadn’t even had the opportunity to take a class in before. So—apart from a brief stint during which I answered the inquiries with Sociology just to be able to move on—I responded with “I have no idea” and the adults without fail countered with “it’s okay not to know,” “your major has such a small impact on the field you end up working in,” or “I changed my major five times before declaring!”

I heard similar responses from the members of my orientation group as I started to get to know people one-on-one. They reassured me that it’s okay not to have a major yet and that they themselves weren’t entirely set on their major either. This left me struggling to put the pieces together: if everyone told me it’s okay and normal not to know, why did we immediately jump to ask about a person’s area of study? If they themselves weren’t completely set on their major, why did all my group members feel the need to identify a specific major?

This is where the College of Letters and Sciences came in to connect the dots for me. In my first year of college, I used the seven-course breadth requirement to choose classes that sounded interesting to me. I ended up taking classes across nearly seven different disciplines while fulfilling requirements that count towards my graduation. I was able to eliminate things I never want to get near again and find some topics that really clicked for me. Entering these classes with a truly open mind—not the mindset that it didn’t count towards my intended major so it didn’t matter—allowed me to appreciate the subjects for what they were. 

Now, nearly a year later, I can safely say that I have some concrete majors in mind. I may even go far enough to list them as my majors, but until I’ve officially declared a major, I’ll still be introducing myself as undeclared. If I’ve learned one thing in my first year of college, it’s to hold your ground. Even when it feels like society is pressuring you to package all your interests into one box and list a major, staying true to yourself and remembering that it really is okay not to know allows you to find a field of study that genuinely interests you!

Author: Beatrice Aronson

Hey everyone! My name is Beatrice and I'm a rising sophomore from Oakland, California planning on double majoring in Human Geography and Political Economy. Apart from being a Campus Ambassador, I'm an editor of The Daily Californian's blog and dance with a student group called Danceworx. In my free time, I love to hike, cook, and scour Yelp to find the best new restaurant to try!