Students declaring majors earlier may have an easier time in college

By Faith Healy

At NIU, less freshmen are coming in as undecided majors, but more students are changing their majors to undecided, said Steven Barleen, associate director of the Academic Advising Center.

This decrease in freshman coming in with undecided majors may be due to pressure they receive from their parents, Barleen said.

“Parents are a little more forceful in pushing their kids to pick a major,” Barleen said. “They are scared of the economy and their kid entering as an undecided major.”

Students who wish to graduate in four years should generally try to pick their major by their sophomore year, but depending on the major they could end up staying for more than four years, Barleen said.

“Some are friendlier where they can choose their sophomore year and still graduate in four years,” Barleen said.

Some students, like Ce’asiah McCracklin, sophomore political science major, know what they want to do when they start at NIU.

“I knew I wanted to do it since I was young,” said McCracklin.

Students who don’t know what they want to do going into their freshman year don’t necessarily need to worry; being undecided allows a student to have time to pick the best major for them, but Barleen said it takes effort to choose a major.

“Students need to actively be pursuing a major option and not waiting for a major to find them,” Barleen said.

Barleen said there are two ways for students to choose their major; one is to pick a career and than choose their major based on that choice. The other option is to choose a major based on what they are passionate about.

“When students are passionate about the career but not the coursework, [they] will not do well in school,” Barleen said. “Students should focus on academic interests and pick a major according to that.”

Students should choose their major even if they are still questioning, Barleen said.

“As soon as a student is pretty sure … they should go to [that department] to switch majors,” Barleen said. “It is best when students start working with that department ASAP.”

If students are still having trouble choosing a major, Barleen said they should talk with an academic advisor, take general education classes in the majors they are interested in, and go to the departments to find out more.

Steve Zimmermann, senior math education major, started out as an undecided major, but took classes that he was interested in that ended up helping him choose his major in math.

“After a while, the classes I was taking were what I wanted to major in,” Zimmermann said. “The teachers made me like the subject and got me into teaching math.”