For undeclared sophomore Alexandra Hurtado, the end of her sophomore semester at the University of Miami means one thing: escalating pressure to select a major.
Within the last two years, Hurtado has considered majoring in music business, journalism, education and biology and has taken a wide variety of courses only to find she is no closer to narrowing down her decision.
“I feel confused,” Hurtado said. “I wish I could try everything. Picking a major sounds so definite. I just feel like I’m only 20 and now I need to decide what I’m doing for the rest of my life? It’s scary.”
College students like Hurtado are overwhelmed by the onset of another academic year and are having to face the stress of declaring a major. Sources of these pressure include parents’ expectations, the economic downturn and opportunities for employment in a dwindling job market.
Margaret Hopkins, dean of undeclared students in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that the greatest pressure on students comes from the parents. She listed business, pre-med and pre-law as the majors parents believe are worth studying, while other fields like music, literature and fine arts are less encouraged.
“Art is not a happy place for parents because they want their kids to go to law school instead,” Hopkins said.
According to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has had a 4.4 percent unemployment rate for college graduates as of March 2011. The number of college grads working menial part-time jobs has spiked by more than 70 percent since 2009.
Regardless, Hopkins advises students to focus on their academic experience right now.
“Don’t worry about your 25-year-old self or your 40-year-old self,” she said. “That person will take care of themselves.”
Megan Garber, assistant director for career development and outreach at the Toppel Career Center, suggested students do extensive research into options available to them. One great way to do this is through internships.
“Internships provide invaluable information,” Garber said. “And if you hate it, you’re not burning any bridges by not coming back.”
Other resources like degree major exploration on myUM and interest-based career assessments at Toppel give undeclared students a better idea of their options. Advisers for every school are also available to for guidance and counseling.
Hopkins explained how the university tries to lighten the burden on undecided students and encourage them to continue exploring before making their final decision.
“Do a little soul searching,” Hopkins said. “The University of Miami is a well-exposed research university with a tremendous reputation. When you’re out there looking for a job and your credentials are from UM, you can’t go wrong.”
Natalia Macias may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.