Getting Through Major Declaration

by Mariah Castillo

So many questions…

Guess what, sophomores? The major declaration deadline is this Monday! Are you, like me, panicking and scrambling to get all the necessary paperwork done? I want to give you sophomores a little reassurance, and to our younger readers who haven’t reached this stage, a little advice.

To my fellow classmates: Take a deep breath. You’re here! You’ve made it! Have you found something you like learning about? You still have several days to officially declare your major, but don’t fret if you’re still not 100% sure about this decision. My first-year advisor calls the major declaration deadline one of the softest deadlines at Barnard; he even has juniors who still haven’t declared yet. Hopefully you won’t need that much time to figure it out, since pushing it off for so long can have its consequences, but honey, when you’re battling the sophomore slump and are still trying to take it easy, declaring your major should be the least stressful thing on your plate right now.

With that being said, for first-years and prospective students, here are some pieces of advice for declaring your major in the coming years.

Completely unsure of what you want to pursue? Take classes that will fulfill the Nine Ways of Knowing. Not only will they give you some sense of what concentrating on a certain subject will be like, it is also a great way to get your GenEd requirements done early. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to focus on, so I tried to get as many general requirements done in my first three semesters. I don’t regret it at all; while my suitemates are trying to figure out how to accommodate their Nine Ways classes with the classes they need for their majors, I can focus on my major classes and have time in the future to take less stressful classes for elective credit.

Have two different interests? Consider a double major, or a major-minor combination. Take classes within these departments, and see if they interest you enough to get over the long, sleepless nights you’ll be pulling. Some intro classes can spark that interest, or it can highlight in big, bold letters that doing this for the rest of your college career isn’t right for you.

Know any upperclassmen? Ask them about their majors! There is a major fair in the fall (that I didn’t attend, hehe) where students from each major are available to talk about their experiences. Note that asking them in the middle of their hell weeks, whether it be for midterms or a week where papers and projects are due every single day, may give you some very disconcerting answers, so take that with a grain of salt. However, there will be some people who are passionate about what they’re doing for a class. Want senpai to notice you? This may be a way how!

It’s a fair point.

Do you hate a certain professor or their class? Analyze why you didn’t like a certain intro class. Was the work too overwhelming? Was the professor a horrible teacher and hard to reach out to? While the professor can definitely make or break a class for you, keep in mind that dropping the possibility of majoring in something simply because the professor you had your first year sucks isn’t the best reason. If you liked what you’re learning but hated how it’s being taught, maybe try a similar class next semester and see how you feel about that. If your professor is amazing, as in the Emily Gregory Award winner for five years in a row (that might be an exaggeration, but you get what I mean), but the concepts and work method don’t mesh with how you process information, then I suggest looking somewhere else. Also, take this time to determine whether you prefer exams or essays, because different classes will test your knowledge in different ways.

Considering going a pre-professional route? Pre-Law and Pre-Med are NOT majors at Barnard, so you can major in whatever you want and still apply. However, for Pre-Med, there are certain classes you’ll have to fulfill before you graduate. I can only talk about Pre-Law and Pre-Med since I’m most familiar with them, but if you’re also interested in Business, Social Work, or another route, go talk to the respective dean. They can be discouraging or encouraging, but it’s worth visiting to start planning for the future.

Career Development is amazing. Going to the Career Development office can help you figure out what you want to do with your life, and maybe help you get a semblance of what your major will be. The advisers there are helpful, and they don’t push you towards something you haven’t expressed an interest in, so going to Elliot is worth it. They’re especially happy to have first-years come by.

Keep calm and take your time. Sure, it may be stressful and/or annoying to hear your friends say that they knew what they wanted to do from the onset, but it’s completely fine to not have a clue about it. When people say that you still got time, you really do still have time to decide. You can deviate from a designated path, as long as you’re happy.

Mariah Castillo is a sophomore at Barnard and the Food and New York Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Undergraduate Advising and Running off the Reese’s.


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