Entering College with an Undeclared Major

There is a common misconception that students should know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives the moment they step foot on their college campus. In actuality, a large portion of students enter college with an undeclared major or have little to no idea what career path they want to follow and use their college experience to figure it out along the way. I like to think Kalamazoo College’s K-Plan works best for students who are unsure of what they want to do, because it allows for a little trial and error with minimal consequences. The K-Plan is built to prepare you for what’s next, and one important piece of that is to give you opportunities to explore with the support of the institution behind you.

Jessica Williams     Admission Counselor

Let’s take a look at the first component of the K-Plan Depth and Breadth in Liberal Arts. At Kalamazoo College, students do not officially declare their major until the middle of their sophomore year. Although some students are very certain what they want to major in, we encourage everyone to take different kinds of classes and explore different departments. By the time you declare your major, you will have taken fifteen classes. That’s fifteen opportunities to figure out what you like and we hope by then you land on one (or two!) department(s) you want to major in. One question I always get when I say this is “But will I still graduate on time? I REALLY don’t know what I want to major in”. Yes, you will still graduate on time *Hears sigh of relief from every senior around the world*. With our open curriculum and minimal requirements, time to explore different areas of study is built into a 4-year graduation plan.

In the same vein, there are students who know what they want to study, but they do not know how they can turn their interest into a career. Many people have grown up with the notion that there are three major career paths – doctor, lawyer, and teacher – and feel a little out of place when they come to the realization that their passion does not perfectly align with any of these careers. Kalamazoo College has an externship program called Discovery, and just as the name implies, it provides students with the opportunity to discover a variety of career paths as early as the end of their freshman year. Students get the chance to take a glimpse at what their life can look like 5, 10, or 30 years from now and are able to decide whether this is something they want to pursue before diving deep into a major. The ability to see a variety of career possibilities helps our students find a career path that is right for them early in their undergraduate career.

In short, I know walking into college not knowing what you want to do can seem scary, but the K-Plan provides you the space to ask questions, explore, and grow, so that you can be successful and thrive at anything you decide to do.

Jessica Williams, Admission Counselor

Just Do It: Advice to Incoming Students

In the year leading up to leaving for college, much of your time is spent preparing for the changes to come: organizing and packing up your belongings for a dorm room, looking through course catalogs to choose what classes you want to take, and talking with others who have already been through the process of entering college or your friends with whom you are about to start a new chapter of life. As you prepare, there is no shortage of people offering you stories, warnings, and advice from their own college experiences, each to be taken into consideration, but with a grain of salt. While every person and every school is different, there are some pieces of advice that are universally valuable and applicable.

With an older brother who had just graduated from college as I was about to enter into my first year at Kalamazoo College, I had a trusted source who could answer all of my questions about living away from home, making new friends, and being successful academically. One of the most important things he told me was something I later heard echoed by a variety of people in my life, backed up with different personal experiences. That advice was to get involved.

It sounds cliche and almost too obvious, but as a freshman starting out in a new place, it is easy to latch onto the first few friends you make or to convince yourself you need some time to settle in before you start to look for clubs or organizations to get involved with. While this is true, Kalamazoo College already plans for that time and schedules its student organization fair, K-Fest, several weeks into the first quarter. Here at K, a lot of those worries that freshman may have are anticipated and the structure of Orientation Week, First Year Forums, and K-Fest are formatted to alleviate the pressure of having to figure out your whole new life at college all at once. With the first few weeks of classes and social life under your belt, K-Fest is a great opportunity to walk around and “sample” some of the many student organizations here at K. Joining a club or organization that deals with subjects and issues you are interested in is the best way to develop your campus network to include upperclassmen and other students you may otherwise not meet, to participate in fun activities or meaningful work, and to begin to create a solid resume for the other numerous opportunities you will come across at Kalamazoo College, like internships, study abroad, and on/off-campus employment.

After my first six months on campus at K, my best piece of advice to incoming students goes hand-in-hand with the advice my brother gave me last year – Just do it. Action is important. It is easy to sit in your dorm room and think “Oh, I’ll get involved with The Index next quarter” or “I’ll go to the next event the Arcus Center puts on” and then never actually
follow through. There is always an excuse at a place as academically challenging as Kalamazoo College, and while it’s important to prioritize homework, it is equally as important to get out of your room or the library and go do the things you say you want to do. Attending events and working with on-campus organizations will actually give you more context to complete your academic work within and will open doors to new friendships and opportunities. You just have to go do it.

-Emiliana Renuart ’20