• Hartwick students performing during Showcase
  • Hartwick student with professor in chemistry lab
  • Hartwick student during glassblowing class
  • Johonstone Science Center, Hartwick College

What Parents Should Know About Declaring a Major

What does it mean to be undeclared?

As many as 40% of Hartwick's first-year students begin their first term undecided about their major, some declare a major during their first term, some within their first year, and many declared students change their major at least once within the first two years. Everyone must make a final selection by the end of their second year. Students will enter college "undeclared" or "undecided" for several different reasons. It may be that they truly have no idea what appeals to them, or perhaps they are interested in several areas of study and want to experience those academic departments before choosing. Thirdly, students may not be choosing because they believe it is like signing a contract that "locks them in" to a particular major (not true). Finally, there may be a gap between what students are truly interested in, and what they think they should be studying or what they think others want them to study.

What assistance is available in choosing a major?

At Hartwick we treat each student as an individual believing there are no pre-set formulas for recommending a major. We have a professional advisor who specializes in helping students choose (contact our Undeclared Advisor and go to Undeclared Student Advising Services for more information). Something to use right away is our Toollbox for Choosing a Major which anyone can access from our website.

We also apply the use of several different personality and interest inventory tests to help undeclared students learn more about themselves through our Office of Career Services.

Balancing passion with practicality: What does a student study while they are undeclared?

The Liberal Arts tradition suggests that the most practical thing you can do is to follow your passion. Developing a passion for an academic pursuit is facilitated by the requirements of our Liberal Arts in Practice Curriculum where each student is required to study a broad array of subjects across the three academic divisions of the college, regardless of major. While deciding on a major a student may work to fulfill these general education requirements and explore new academic areas.

What majors lead to the best jobs?

There are no "magic" majors. In our rapidly changing economy, the correlation between what one studies in college and one's career path is relatively low. What doesn't change as rapidly are the skills that employers value the most: "transferable skills" such as organization and leadership, problem solving, critical thinking, oral and written communication, human relations, personal responsibility and work ethic. These are skills that can be developed in any major. Of course, careers in medicine, engineering and other technical fields do require particular undergraduate coursework, and some majors must be started in the first year in order to graduate on time. However, to prepare well for the majority of career options students ought to follow their passions and true interests to achieve their potential and experience great accomplishment.

Know the facts.
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