Undeclared students and the College Core Curriculum

Mia DeRoco, Contributing Writer

In less than a week, class registration will begin for all returning students. It is at this time that the undeclared among us begin to quake at the semesterly reminder that we still don’t know what we’re majoring in. Students who apply undeclared are told over and over again not to worry; that there is plenty of time to figure out a major interest and a career path. In fact the University, as a liberal arts institution, almost markets itself towards students who may not have a clear idea yet. Since it requires a variety of courses outside your major, and discourages hyper-focusing, it seems like the ideal place for students coming in without their minds made up. 

In reality, this is not ideal for students struggling to pinpoint their major focus. Discouraging focusing early means that students who left high school not yet knowing what they wanted to do are still scrambling for ideas two years later when they must decide. The University needs to do more to help its undeclared students find a viable major and career path. It seems to be more focused on appearing to be an ideal liberal arts institution creating well-rounded academics than on giving students practical assistance in figuring out what they should do. 

This is most clearly seen in the College Core Curriculum, which is the checklist of required classes that are unrelated to your chosen major. The reasoning is that by engaging with “a diverse selection of courses that teach them multiple disciplinary skills,” students will “be better for any profession or intellectual task ahead.” Students are instructed to take these classes as soon as possible. The website states, “we encourage you to take them early—not because this will ‘get them out of the way,’ but because it will introduce you to a range of skills and disciplinary approaches that you might never have encountered before.” The goals of the College Core Curriculum — to create academically diverse students who have skills in many different areas — may seem laudable. But the reality is that this program, rather than providing students with a well-rounded education, distracts the students without a clear idea of what they want to do from finding a major soon enough. 

Since students are encouraged to fill these requirements as soon as possible, they spend their first few semesters taking classes in order to check the boxes. These are often introductory level courses that skim the nitty gritty of the discipline, so students do not get a clear idea of what it would mean to study this subject. And because students’ schedules are so crowded by their CCC requirements, students often can’t get into, or don’t have time for, the classes for the majors they might be interested in. This leads to indecision as well as impractical commitments. A student may be interested in a class they take their first semester, decide that is what they would like to major in, and then never take another class in that subject until they have already committed. They have no idea what this major will mean for them, because they have had so little real exposure to it.

Undeclared students have been left high and dry by the school’s requirements for academic diversity. If the University wants well rounded students, it must also provide those without a plan coming in with resources to figure out a focus that will be best for them, instead of distracting them with required courses unrelated to their academic goals.

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