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Major Issues

April 17, 2020
man with hand in chin, thinking
Sebastien Moore of Murrieta, Calif., chose international studies as his major.

No major? No problem! UW is here to help. 

By Micaela Myers 

Did you know that as many as 80 percent of college students change their majors? While you may feel the pressure to pick a major before starting college, you don’t actually need to declare until around the third semester. The University of Wyoming’s Advising, Career and Exploratory Studies Center (ACES) provides trained advisers to help you enroll in a variety of classes, to find different clubs and organizations to further pursue your interests, and to locate your niche for a career you will love for life. 

Rather than a student choosing “undeclared,” UW offers Exploratory Studies tracks under broad areas of interest: communication, media and the arts; math, data science and business; government, public policy and justice; human service, wellness and social science; science, technology and the environment; and culture, society and diversity.

With around 80 undergraduate programs at UW, exploratory tracks act as a stepping-stone, says ACES Academic Adviser Brianna Casey: “These six tracks group majors together in different ways. It narrows it down slowly until you get to the one that makes the most sense.”

During the first two to three semesters, students are fulfilling general requirements that can apply to most majors, so it’s OK to wait until after the second semester to declare a specific major. This allows students time to take different classes, join clubs and interview professionals in various careers—to find where their passion lies.

 

Rylee’s Story

“I felt a ton of pressure to pick a major because everyone I knew had already declared, and I felt like I was an outsider being undeclared,” says sophomore Rylee Bundy of Fort Collins, Colo. “With the help of the advisers at ACES, I began to feel more confident about choosing a path. I knew I wanted to try to go in the direction of helping and learning about people.”

Her ACES adviser, Ben Herdt, encouraged her to take a variety of classes and to step out of her comfort zone. She recently declared sociology and Spanish as her majors and hopes to one day help others in the nonprofit sector.

“Choosing the exploratory track is the way to go,” Bundy says. “It gives you time to make a decision, and you have a whole staff of helpful advisers who support you. I had the opportunity to take interesting classes and had expert advice on what path would be a good choice. I think if you are unsure about a major, you should try exploratory studies, because it does not confine you when you get to college.”

 

Jessica’s Story

“The fall semester of my freshman year, I had declared nursing as a major. I quickly found myself struggling in core classes like general biology, and that was not a good thing considering I had a lot more of those classes I had to succeed in to even be considered for admittance into the program,” says sophomore Jessica Chavez of Laramie. “I wasn’t enjoying myself and was constantly stressed out about what was going to happen next. I decided to go undeclared in order to find myself and figure out what my true strengths were.”

It was hard to give up her longtime dream of nursing, but she’s glad she did. “By taking the exploratory studies route, I was really able to learn more about myself and what I had the potential to do,” Chavez says. “It allowed me to explore different fields of work that worked well with my strengths. It allowed me to look forward to my future semesters, and I was finally enjoying myself in college.”

She explored other fields of work that involved helping people: “I took an alternative spring break trip to Las Cruces, N.M., where I learned about immigration issues and helped refugees for a week.” After that, Chavez declared social work as her major.

Take your time if you’re unsure of a major, she advises: “College is a time for you to find yourself and explore things that pique your interest. Going exploratory studies is an opportunity for you to take classes you find interesting, to get your basic classes out of the way, and it also gives you an opportunity for you to grow into something that you may have not seen was there. Without the ACES program, I don’t think I would be where I am today.”

woman sitting behind a computer
ACES Academic Adviser Brianna Casey

 

Major Issues At-A-Glance

ACES Academic Adviser Brianna Casey offers the following advice if you’re considering switching majors or adding a major or minor.

Switch majors: To switch majors, speak with your adviser. The paperwork is easy, but make sure you know how much time the switch will add to your college career.

Concurrent majors: As with switching majors, make sure you know how many semesters or credits you’re adding if you decide to double major.

Minors: Some students deliberately choose a minor—such as a language. Others pursue side classes that interest them, and before they know it, they have enough units to add a minor. Minors can allow you to demonstrate additional skills on your resume. If you’re interested in adding a minor, talk to your adviser.

It’s also important to communicate your interests and schedule—such as sports or work—with your adviser. Exploratory track majors are advised by ACES, while those who have chosen a major are advised from within each college.

Learn more about ACES at uwyo.edu/aces.


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