“Undecided”? Actually, they’re “exploring”!

Parents and caregivers often worry when students don't know what they want to study or haven’t declared a major. Although concern is understandable, being “undecided” is a unique opportunity for students to explore and clarify their interests, values, skills, and strengths; doing so ultimately leads to enhanced self-awareness and decision making skills that will serve them throughout their future careers! 

Common Students Concerns

Although you may have concerns about the major exploration and decision process, students have their own worries as well. Below are some common concerns exploring students may be grappling with:

  • I have so many interests, how do I choose just one to major in?
  • My major is what is going to determine my career for the rest of my life.
  • What if I pick the “wrong” one and then I end up hating it and it’s too late to change?
  • Can I get a job with this major? 

How can you help?

You care about your student's college and career experiences! Use the suggestions below to tailor your support to be as helpful as possible to your exploring student’s needs.

Do: View and talk about being “undecided” as an opportunity to explore interests, values, skills, and strengths.

Don’t: View and talk about exploration as a problem

Do: Encourage them to seek help and connect with campus resources like CAPE.

Don’t: Assume they know what resources are available to them

Do: Ask positive and open-ended questions free from assumptions and judgement

Don’t: Continually question. Try to avoid using the word “should” (ex: “You should major in XYZ…”)

Do: Emphasize that a major does not define a career path and it is common to have many jobs throughout life

Don’t: Discourage your student by saying things like “You will never get a job with that major.”

Conversation Starters

If your student asks you for help or you want to start a conversation, check out the document linked below! We’ve included some helpful questions you can ask to help you and your student begin meaningful major exploration.

  • What are some classes, experiences, extra-curricular activities you enjoyed in high school or so far in college? What did you enjoy about them? How might these relate to available majors or possible careers?
  • What majors are you considering? What interests you about these majors?
  • What types of activities would you like to be doing as a part of a career?
  • How do you spend your “spare” time? What would you do more of if you had more time?
  • What do you see as your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
  • What skills do you want to develop and use?
  • What are you most and least excited about as you make a choice about your major?
  • What do you want to learn more about or learn how to do?
  • When you envision your future, what do you see?
  • What have you done so far to explore majors? What might be a helpful next step?
  • What kinds of activities or topics get you energized? What drains your energy?