Hello incoming Clarkson students! My name is Brandon Gohl ’23, and I’m a freshman University Studies major. I am currently working through my second semester at Clarkson, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to not declare a major before going to college. Being a University Studies student has presented me with many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had access to if I had taken a different route. I would like to share my top reasons for declaring as a University Studies student to help you decide if you should take a similar path.
- Extended time to find your interests
Throughout high-school, I took many different STEM field classes to try to narrow down what career path I wanted to take. I was lucky to attend a school that offered a wide variety of classes, however I still couldn’t find an area of study that I wanted to stick with. When it was time to enroll at Clarkson, I spent countless hours talking with people of different professions to try to understand their career paths and match theirs with my dream and what courses they took that were of value to them. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life at 17 years old, which is perfectly okay. Because of this, I now have had over a semester to continue my search for a path I want to take. Time is no reason to stress over a decision that many people can’t make. The time that I have taken to decide has given me a stronger background and allowed for more exploration of different opportunities than if I declared for a major right away.
- Getting a glimpse of different majors
A major reason why I wanted to be in University Studies was to take courses related to different majors. I was stuck between Engineering & Management and Mechanical Engineering and I knew that my first year of college would direct me one of the two ways depending on how the courses went. During my fall semester, my advisor placed me in an E&M course so I could test the waters and see if I enjoyed it. I loved my professor but I wasn’t committed to what being an E&M major meant. However, I was able to meet new friends that I continue to talk to today and I can now say that that isn’t the path I want to follow. After talking with my brother who is a Mechanical Engineer with a minor in sustainable energy at Clarkson, I thought that maybe that’s a path I would enjoy. I spoke with my advisor and she placed me in an Energy Systems class that discusses different uses of energy and how they are produced. I can confidently say that this class is strengthening my interest in sustainable energy and I likely wouldn’t have discovered it if I stuck with one path and didn’t search for other areas of study.
- Engineers take similar courses freshman year
Before coming to Clarkson, I spoke with my siblings about declaring for University Studies instead of choosing a major right away. I told them about how I didn’t want to declare for a major but I also didn’t want to fall behind on courses that were mandatory. All of them assured me that know matter what I decide, all engineering majors take similar courses freshman year and I would not fall behind. Their word has proven correct as I take the same base courses as my friends, but a couple of my electives differ from theirs because I am still searching for the right major. The courses that differ are specific to other majors or minors such as sustainable energy, but those classes may be available throughout your college career. The benefit here is that I can choose to become an engineering major at this point without needing to add extra classes or semesters to graduate on time.
- Greater assistance for degree selection
Two important individuals that can help your college career are your advisor and alumni of Clarkson University. Your advisor will help you get extra help and guidance if you are still searching for your major. My advisor has spoken with me multiple times, always assuring me of her assistance. She placed me in courses that I had an interest in such as the E&M course and the energy systems course which has helped me process my interests for my career. The second half is communication with alumni. Clarkson alumni can help you by providing insight to what their major leads to in the industry. Based on what their experiences are, it can help you find out if your ideas are similar to theirs.
- Listening to different professors advice
A very important aspect of Clarkson is the close-knit community and availability to the professors. If you were to start in University studies, I would recommend using the easy access to the professors as your advantage, because they can talk with you about their experiences and what changed their paths. If it isn’t the professors, then talk with TA’s or graduate students who are still making career choices like you are. There are many different opportunities on campus to talk about career paths and what is best for you.
Beginning my college career at Clarkson University in University Studies has been my greatest decision yet. I have had access to many assets on campus and help from our alumni. My biggest worry was falling behind because I didn’t decide what major I wanted to study, however I am in a better position for success by taking this path. Another point to consider is how much stress I was under to know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but you don’t have to do the same. Use the resources available to you on campus to find what you enjoy and what area of study you can see yourself further into your career. I would full-heartedly support your decision to take a similar path and begin college undecided. These five reasons represent just a small sample to show you why beginning undecided is a viable option. If you decide to start your college career at Clarkson University in University Studies, welcome, and I hope you are able to find what career you would like to pursue!