In class this week, one of my professors told us her department heads announced that instead of calling it an "Undecided" or "Undeclared" major, our university was now categorizing students without a major as ~Exploratory~. There were some laughs among the students. Perhaps it sounded a little over-the-top.
Exploratory? We are college undergrads, not sailors on a fifteenth-century European expedition. Still, as class proceeded as usual, I was still mulling over this trivial change in name. At first, I thought it a little much, maybe even a slight sugar-coating to make us Undecideds feel a little more legit or adventurous. I eventually landed on the conclusion that "exploratory" is, in fact, a totally accurate summary of my experience being in school without a focused field of study. And here's why.
Yes, the idea of gaining a degree of certainty and belonging by committing to a major is something that sounds completely attractive to me. Yes, I want to stop answering "Oh, I'm still undecided," when family members, friends, and new acquaintances ask me what my major is. And yes, declaring a major adds to one's ever-so-important sense of identity. BUT, when I stop to think about it: Jumping the Exploratory major's ship at the first sight of dry land without taking the chance to see all there is to see... that just sounds like bad expedition-ing. When I get down on myself for being super indecisive and unsure, I just remind myself of all the things I have yet to experience and learn. Seriously, there's still so much for me to see and feel and do. So, I am resolved to raise the sails again each day and set out on a new leg of this grand expedition.
As cliché as it sounds, life is about the journey, not the destination. You'll never have the same amount of opportunities to explore and learn about yourself and the world as you do in college. With that being said, if you're Undecided it really is in your best interest to be seizing every learning opportunity and experience you can find.
Join clubs, apply for positions even if you think you won't get them, talk to people in careers you find interesting, research, shadow a professional, engage in different kinds of service, take classes you know nothing about but sound super interesting, learn something new and then learn some more. It can be fun and exciting if you decide to make it so! I've learned to get over the embarrassment of looking inexperienced in a new situation or uninformed about a topic of conversation. Putting yourself out there into the unknown and uncomfortable is how you grow, learn, and become able to make the best decisions for yourself.
I'm not saying those students who are still sticking to the major they decided on in their senior year of high school are in some way doing themselves an injustice by not dabbling in other fields. Every individual's journey is different and never having second-guessed yourself before is not grounds for second-guessing yourself now.
Uncertainty is a scary thing and that feeling of "What if I never make a darn decision?!" is definitely a nagging one. And yes, us Exploratory majors will have to declare a major someday soon. But I believe if you focus on the journey, the destination will take care of itself. (And if it doesn't work out the first time, remember there is also no shame in changing your mind and changing it again. You'll get there. I promise.)
To address any fear and doubt you are still harboring, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
"For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best of it or the worst of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you've never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again." -Eric Roth
Explore, explore, explore!