06/21/2013 05:54 pm ET Updated Aug 21, 2013

Why Undecided Is Okay

The first thing many high school students seem to worry about -- past what college they will be attending -- is what to choose for their field of study. After years of schooling according to strict requirements in distinct subjects like mathematics, English, science, and social studies, it can be difficult to be sure of the degree you want to choose. While the majority of my friends said they knew exactly what they wanted to major in even before the start of their first year, I'm ending my sophomore year still checking off as undecided, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

High school, for me, was a place that in some ways helped me best to find out what I was not interested in. While I had decent grades in all my classes, I knew that math and physics were not what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. Even with my interests in history and English, though, going into college I had no idea in which field I wanted to major.

My first year at the University of Michigan was a bit of a mess -- in terms of classes, I was all over the place. I took anything I thought sounded interesting that filled some sort of credit requirement, from psychology to astronomy to anthropology to ancient history. The first thing I learned taking university-level English classes was that I would never be an English major; literary analysis that somehow always ends up at Freudian psychology isn't really my thing.

However, because I took so many different things, I found one of my favorite subjects that I never would have encountered if I had immediately chosen a degree -- astronomy. Science fiction has always been a favorite genre of mine, and learning about planets, stars, and space in general actually made me look forward to going to class. While declaring a major was out of the question for me (remember what I said about math and physics?), being informed about something I find so fascinating has really made a difference in my life.

Being undecided permits you to explore the incredible amount of new subjects and fields that a college education allows instead of holing you up immediately in your chosen degree. It wasn't until my first semester sophomore year that I finally found something I could see myself applying in a career -- communication studies. After a year and a half in college and two intro classes in the field, I knew it would be my choice for a degree.

In September I will be able to declare my new major after two great years of indecision. Without that time to be able to explore all that college education has to offer, I wouldn't have found a passion for the stars or a degree that fit me better than any high school subject could. So the next time someone asks what you're studying, don't be ashamed to say that you don't know -- because if it's your first year, no one does, and the more time you spend studying different subjects, the more sure you will be when you find the one you're really passionate about.

by Sarah Rybak, University of Michigan

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