Orange Alert

The Case for Reconsidering "Undecided"

Posted on: Oct. 8, 2019

Dear faculty and staff,

You’ve probably heard the expression “context is key.” One of my favorite examples concerns the word undecided.

Within the context of higher education, an undecided student is one who has yet to declare a major. Such students—a full one-third of our A&S undergraduate body—are curious to see the range of options that we (and the world) can offer. In my mind, these students are not undecided. To the contrary, they’ve already decided that they want more information and experience to choose their majors. They are, in fact, exploratory.

Our exploratory students are more fortunate now than at any other time in A&S history. In addition to the expertise of more than 350 impressive and empathetic faculty members, and along with our newly integrated advising model, they can avail themselves of powerful opportunities such as:

  • Road Trips: Immersion trips to Atlanta and New York City offer A&S students the opportunity to explore careers and network with alumni and industry experts in metropolitan settings. The trips range from three days to a week and are open to all majors. Learn more and read student testimonials.
  • The Strong Interest Inventory® assessment: Our Academic and Career Advising Office is now certified to administer the Strong Interest Inventory® assessment. Designed by Myers-Briggs, this tool can help students identify their work styles, related fields of study and careers, and the top five or 10 most compatible occupations from a list of 260 specific jobs. Feel free to share this survey with students you think could benefit from taking the assessment.
  • Study Abroad: Syracuse University has a strong study abroad culture, and nearly 40 percent of graduates have at least one international study experience (the national average is 10 percent). Encourage students to contact their advisors to discuss and to review their options.

Whether they’ve chosen a major or not, all of our students are exploring new territory here at A&S. You can help them find their way. Offer a kind word. Encourage them to consider value-added opportunities like the ones above. Let them know that it’s more than OK to adjust course as they go—it’s why they came! By providing context for their explorations, we pass on the invaluable gifts of confidence and certainty.

Karin Ruhlandt
Dean and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
College of Arts and Sciences