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The Dreaded Question

Posted by on Sunday, December 6, 2015 in Academics, Admissions, College of Arts and Science, Freshman Life.

When I was writing my college applications, the hardest question was never the personal statement, or the classic “Why College XYZ” question, or even the horrifically ambiguous “Describe a defining moment in your life.” For me, the hardest question was some version of this: “What is your intended major?” More often than not, this question led to hours upon end of browsing college websites, trying to imagine a life in which I majored in English, or computer science, or film studies, or psychology.

If you’re a senior in high school, and you already have your whole life planned out, then power to you. But if you feel a little (or a lot) like you have no idea what you’re doing, then I’m going to let you in on a little secret: neither do any of us. And let me tell you, Vanderbilt is a great place to be undecided.

Okay, technically I do have a major that I love and can’t stop talking about. But at the same time, I am also the girl whose favorite day of the entire school year is the day that new classes come out on YES, our registration system. I can happily spend an entire day adding interesting classes that have nothing to do with my major to my class cart. Sociology? History of math? Sign language? Russian fairytales? Sign me up.

THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS (Photo courtesy Vanderbilt Flickr)

Aside from the wealth of classes that Vanderbilt offers to its students, the school basically requires you to explore. Each of the four undergraduates have some form of liberal core, which is basically a list of classes that you have to take in addition to your major-related classes in order to get your degree. While the word “requirement” is a bit aggressive-sounding, the way that liberal core works here is actually really cool. There are no required classes, really – just required focus areas like “cultural studies” and “perspectives.” Within each of these focus areas, there is a huge list of classes that count for that area, and you can choose any one you’d like to fulfill that requirement. This means that if you’re a math major, but you’re really interested in learning about German culture, you can take a class about it and actually get credit toward your degree.

Liberal core requirements (commonly known as AXLE to Arts and Science students) are especially helpful for undecided majors because you really don’t have to commit to a major during your first year here. By knocking out your liberal core requirements, you get to take classes toward your degree and figure out what you want to do with your life while you’re at it. A pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.

Another reason why Vanderbilt is so great for people who are undecided is that if you apply to the College of Arts and Science, you don’t even declare your major until at least your second year. Instead, you get a pre-major adviser (commonly known as a CASPAR adviser) who will help you pick classes and ultimately make your decision. This ensures that you don’t pick a major prematurely, and miss out on something you might end up loving! Of course, if you’re firmly set in your major, your adviser will help you toward these goals as well. And when you do declare your major, you’ll get to pick an adviser who specializes in that topic.

The moral of this story is that if you’re thinking about applying to Vanderbilt and you have no idea what you want to major in, that is 100% okay. At a place like Vanderbilt, where exploration is encouraged, you’ll be completely supported.

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