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Undecided: How to Narrow Down Your College List

What does being “undecided” mean when talking about the college application process? Regardless of whether you are applying this cycle or are just trying to get an early start, being aware of these key terms is very important. Undecided is a term used to describe a student who has not decided on a major or specialty.

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Ultimately, about 75% of first-year college students change their major or focus over the course of their undergraduate journey. However, that statistic is not really helpful when trying to narrow down your college list and single out what your top schools are going to be. How can you pick schools if you can’t predict how you will change your mind in the future? Well, here are some tips regarding how to narrow down your college list as an undecided student:

1.  What kind of undecided are you?

There are many layers to being undecided. You have to explore your own academic interests and determine if you have any sort of direction or area that you lean towards. As education becomes more interdisciplinary, you may not have to choose just one interest; you may be able to find a healthy balance of interests depending on what your college choices have to offer. Here are some things you might want to ask yourself to figure out how undecided you are:

  • Which of these best suits your interests?
    • Engineering and applied sciences
    • Social Sciences
    • Humanities
  • How many of the previously mentioned topics did you pick? One? Two?
  • If you could create your own perfect major, what would it be? What qualities of your previous answers are you most passionate about?
  • Did you have any favorite classes in high school? Do they correlate with any of the answers above? Can you find a common theme?
  • Maybe you have no clue what you need to study but you have something you want to achieve or a job that you want to have later on? Can you identify where that job might fall into your previous answers?

If your answers were truly all over the place, then you may be very undecided but hopefully, you were able to identify some common themes. Keep those themes in mind as you read through the rest of these tips.

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2. Mid-size to larger schools may be the way to go

If you are undecided, then it may be worth your while to consider a larger school. Typically, the larger the school is, the more majors and programs it will offer due to the variety of their student population. This can be great for undecided students because there will be a ton of introductory courses for you to try as early as your first year. In addition to classes, larger schools tend to also have more clubs and organizations which can be helpful for your exploration journey.

3. Consider flexible curriculum schools

A flexible curriculum gives you the freedom to choose all of their courses, free from general education requirements. This varies from school to school in terms of getting into your major requirements but these types of curricula usually allow for students to have some control instead of being told exactly what to sign up for every year. One example of a flexible curriculum school is the University of Rochester where students are only required to partake in the cluster system where they are asked to take some courses of their choosing outside of their major. This is a blessing for students who are undecided or are just curious about a lot of things, because if you decide to change your major, all of the classes you have been taking can count toward your cluster instead, so you won’t have a big setback (with the help and consultation of advising services of course).

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4. Consider schools with established exploratory programs and resources

As you attempt to narrow down your college list, take note of which schools actually have a plan, program, and/or resources for undecided students that involve actually giving students an outlet to learn and ask questions to work towards developing their academic plan. Look for rotation programs, a variety of introductory classes, interdisciplinary classes available to first-year students, and how thorough their advising services are.

I hope that these tips helped you make some progress on your list or at least got you thinking about the college process. Whether you decide to apply to the University of Rochester or any other institution, I wish you the best in all of your future endeavors.

Good luck!

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