Tips for Starting Post-Secondary with...

Tips for Starting Post-Secondary with an Undecided Major

by Sarah Leung
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

It is not uncommon to start your post-secondary experience without a specific major in mind. In fact, 20-50% of all students entering post-secondary are undecided about their major. This is so commonplace that post-secondary institutions will expect students that are still contemplating their major.

Some schools will have “undecided” programs set aside for first year students for this reason. For example, University of Guelph, University of Alberta, and York University are just a few schools with these programs. These programs allow those students to explore their options without needing to pick a major immediately.

Education is not a race, and everyone’s experience will be different at the start and the end. Here are some pieces of advice for new post-secondary students studying without a decided major.

  1. Self-Reflection

Going to post-secondary is a new start! While in your new environment, take a moment to think about what you want to do there. It can be hard to think about yourself – it is certainly not a pleasant thing to be faced with life decisions – but here are some examples:

  • What do I want to achieve in my time in post-secondary?
  • What do I value in obtaining a certificate, diploma, or degree?
  • What kind of environment do I prefer?
  • What kind of skills do I want to develop?

These questions do not need answers right away, nor are these questions easy, but they can provide a pathway to discovering more about yourself and what your education path can entail.

For example, narrowing down what kind of environment you prefer, such as an office environment, will help you figure out which field(s) would be better suited for you.

  1. Explore Electives

Your time with an undecided major is an opportunity to explore. While a major needs to be declared eventually, the addition of electives makes the process more manageable by showcasing students the possibilities of what they can study.

Take this time to try out courses from varying disciplines that you are curious about. Time at high school might not give students the chance to try more diverse subjects like archaeology, linguistics, or criminology. If you want, these options allow you to test the waters for what fits.

Post-secondary institutions offer many more subjects than high schools can offer, so it can be hard to be know if something is the right fit if you have not had the chance to experience it.

Even if you take an elective and end up disliking it, disliking a subject is just as useful as knowing that you like it – every step during this period of discovery is an important one.

  1. Talk with Academic Advising

Post-secondary institutions have academic advisors for a reason: everyone’s educational path is different, and they are here to help you navigate any questions and uncertainties you may have.

Academic advisors will help a variety of education-related topics, such as course planning and career planning. They can help you have a clearer picture of what you want your education path to be.

One use of academic advising is to help find your major. Even if you do find one, it might change – and that is completely okay! 50-70% of students change their major at least once during their time in school. The journey in post-secondary is constantly about exploration and revelations about oneself. It is natural for things to change as time goes on and more experiences are felt.

  1. Connect with the School Community

Studying is important, but it is not the only reason to be at school. Campuses offer many opportunities for students to connect with each other and the school itself. Majors can help students find like-minded peers, but clubs and school events are other great ways to meet peers.

One other benefit of clubs is that they offer an opportunity for students to have a leadership position in a low-risk environment. Clubs can still have obligations like workplaces, so students can learn how to manage tasks as if they were in a workplace.

Studies have shown that participation in all types of post-secondary clubs is correlated with success factors like improvements in critical thinking, personal development, and academic growth. Clubs not only strengthen bonds with other peers, but also strengthen one’s own skills.



“Choosing Your Program | Career Centre.” University of Toronto Mississauga, https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/careers/career-planning/career-planning-year/choosing-your-program. Accessed 12 Jan. 2022.

“How to Choose Your Program.” UniversityStudy.ca, https://www.universitystudy.ca/plan-for-university/how-to-choose-your-program/. Accessed 12 Jan. 2022.

Miller, Benjamin. “Campus Clubs Offer a Profound Learning Experience Outside the Classroom.” University Affairs, 31 Aug. 2016, https://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/campus-clubs-offer-profound-subtle-learning-experience/. Accessed 14 Jan. 2022.

Scully, Allison. “Advising the Undecided: A Model for Engaging Students in the Major Exploration Process.” Advising in Canada, 24 Mar. 2020, https://advisingincanada.wordpress.com/2020/03/24/advising-the-undecided-a-model-for-engaging-students-in-the-major-exploration-process/. Accessed 12 Jan. 2022.

“Undecided Major | Future Students | York University.” York University, https://futurestudents.yorku.ca/program/undecided-major. Accessed 12 Jan. 2022.

“Undeclared – Programs – University of Alberta.” University of Alberta, https://apps.admissions.ualberta.ca/programs/sc/sc010/undeclared. Accessed 12 Jan 2022.

“Undeclared | Undergraduate Admission 2022.” University of Guelph, https://admission.uoguelph.ca/bcom/und. Accessed 12 Jan. 2022.

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