In the weeks leading up to February 20, the deadline to declare a major, I’ve been a listening ear to my indecisive friends. Art history major or government and legal studies and visual arts double major with a History minor? The conversations tend to go in circles and never end with a definitive answer. Luckily, despite the unending confusion, my friends and I have officially decided and declared our majors. Some of us went to the events put on by departments, while others made appointments with trusted faculty. Yet, no matter how you declare, or what major you choose, the consensus always seems to be the same: declaring your major is over-hyped and underwhelming.
At Bowdoin, the process of “officially” declaring your major takes about five minutes. Last week, after walking out of my professor’s office, I felt a little disappointed that I didn’t feel more accomplished. After all, shouldn’t this moment feel more monumental? Many of my friends mirrored this sentiment; the process turned out to be relieving, yet underwhelming. When all is said and done, declaring your major feels more like a chore than an achievement.
All the time and energy that goes into choosing your major (and minor) deserves to be more celebrated and recognized. I don’t think the process needs to become more complicated, but I think there needs to be a change in outlook, from both students and faculty.
Making the act of declaring your major a more positive experience could take many different forms. It could look like an event for all sophomores after they have declared, a dinner with your new advisor or even an upperclassman mentor within the department. These simple gestures would make students feel more welcomed into their department and would help faculty get to know students in less academic settings.
Aside from these tangible changes, students could shift their perspective on the process. Instead of putting complete emphasis on the five-or 10-minute interaction, we could see it as a gradual coming of age. Rather than being a moment in time, it could be viewed as the next step in creating your future.
Since arriving at Bowdoin, the time to declare my major has always seemed to be in the distant future, a worry for another day. After going through the process, I wish I had been more optimistic and anticipative of making my choice. Declaring your major, either prospectively or officially, is one of the biggest decisions you make during your time at Bowdoin. It defines the way you look at the world, the job fields for which you are qualified and how you question the truth.
This fall, when I realized I wanted to be an anthropology major, I felt more secure at Bowdoin. I felt driven and inspired to explore what academics really have to offer here. Declaring your major can help you find a purpose in the classes you choose, the events you attend or the questions you ask. It’s an exciting journey that channels your past experiences and future passions—which can’t be quantified by a single moment.