CollegeAdvisor.com presents its majors series webinars on Undecided Majors in a 60-minute webinar and Q&A with college students and alumni. Our CollegeAdvisor panel will share their insider perspectives on how they chose their majors, how they applied successfully to colleges, and how they pursued their majors in college. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2021-02-09 Undecided Majors
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to the CollegeAdvisor’s webinar and undecided majors, uh, to orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll be starting off with the presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. And in the public chat, you can download our slides in the handouts tab, and you can start submitting questions in the Q and a tab.
Now let’s meet our panelists.
Okay, the slides are, are malfunctioning a little bit, but I think Ishida is first. If you want to introduce yourself. Yeah, for sure. So my name’s Isha gusta and I’m a member of the Stanford class of 2025. I was admitted in the 2024 batch, but then I took a gap year because of COVID. And I’ll be telling you guys about my experience applying on [00:01:00] site.
Great. Uh, my name is Zoe. I use she, her pronouns. I graduated from Yale in 2016. I studied religious studies, concentrating and environmental studies, very niche and interdisciplinary. Uh, and that’s a large part of the reason I applied undecided is because I loved interdisciplinary studies. And again, we’ll be talking a lot more about that as we progress.
Cool. So I guess we’ll start by telling you a little bit about why we chose to apply undecided. So, um, I didn’t exactly apply undecided. I indicated my interest, but I was also very clear that I was not sure what I was applying for. Um, in Stanford, they had like three options that we could pick. And I think the first was like environmental science.
It was called [00:02:00] earth systems. And the second was like economics. And then the last one was undecided because I really had no clue what I was doing. And the reason I did so was because, um, I felt like I was at a stage in my life where I didn’t feel like I could believe. Validate my interests into anything.
And, um, there was also like no consistent theme in my application. I know a lot of kids have like CS focused applications and they like coded a lot. I literally didn’t have that. I was just interested in everything. And I think that was one of my strengths as well. I wrote about that in my essay and stuff.
I wrote about how I was just interested to learn about everything. And that’s kind of, it kind of just went with my theme of not having to see. And that’s one of the reasons I applied, um, I’m decided and asked for my current interests. Um, I would say like, they’re still always changing and I’m super grateful that Stanford gives us almost a year or over a year to explore what we’re going to study.
But currently I’m thinking of like economics [00:03:00] systems, but I’ve also been working on like an education. During my gap year, which has led me to become more interested in like computer science, because it’s kind of, I see it as a necessary tool for making social teams. So yeah, just a lot of interests in.
That’s great. And honestly, not too different from my experience. I think a lot of people apply undecided like us because we have lots of interests and I’m a sufferer for interdisciplinary studies and very niche academia. I mean, in college that remained true. I studied religious studies, concentrating environmental studies and wrote my thesis about Jewish farming communes.
So. That was true for me in high school. I love nerding out about the intersections between my English class and my environmental studies class and my French literature class. So it was really important to me to keep that spirit alive. And I [00:04:00] was very much of the month. I am a teenager. I am changing every month.
I will continue to change and I don’t want to wed myself to something. And I want the opportunity to explore my passions in college. So that’s a large part of the reason I decided to apply undecided, um, yeah. To honor the growth and my genuine interest in multiple fields. And in terms of my current interests, I’m not in college anymore, but I’m really interested in embodiment theory.
Which is a fancy way to talk about right. Bodies and movement. It’s something I discovered in college. I always thought dance with like a side passion that wasn’t academic and in college, I discovered that it’s very much academic and can be very intellectual and fell in love with it. As I discovered it also really interested in sustainability, gender studies, social justice, and these actually are all topics I explored, um, throughout my four years at Yale.[00:05:00]
Um, cool. So now I’ll tell you guys about some of the extracurriculars that I did in high school. Again, you’ll see a consistent theme of not having a theme, um, throughout these activities. So, um, I think the biggest activity I did was, um, uh, social justice stage I made on Instagram and it was just, uh, like an Instagram page where I would literally posted out.
But I didn’t like happening in society, like women’s right issues and like, um, environmental issues. And I just like write little, like post about them and they started gaining a lot of traction and we kind of built an entire community around these activists. And then that kind of builds up to like an online magazine.
And that was essentially like what we did over there. And if you guys want to take a look at it, Literally just activists on Instagram. Um, and then from there, my like [00:06:00] interests in like writing and journalism kind of came out a little bit and I was actually able to use the skills that I picked up during factor this, to participate in like an essay writing competition held by the world bank.
And that was kind of about. Like reimagining education. And that’s kind of how I like journeyed into my interest in education. I did win that ethic competition and I had a chance to kind of attend the world spring meetings. And that’s when I was like, really like, excited about education and creating like changes in the education system in Indy.
And like really passionate about like improving opportunities for low income students. And then at the time I was like volunteering, teaching kids, English at schools, um, just like doing a lot of like little education projects. And I’m also working on like an education startup right now. So that’s really cool.
And then I also did like model UN and student council in my school where I would just like go to MUN [00:07:00] conferences and like represent countries on like social issues. And I would, I was always doing humanitarian committees as well in MUN. And I guess that kind of worked that kind of backed my interest in education and yeah, those were my activities.
Great. So my activity is in high school, very much aligned with my activities in college. Um, I was very interested in small scale, sustainable agriculture. I started working on this non-profit farm, very close to my high school that donates all of its produce to local food banks. Um, and I discovered a passion for it, for the sustainability of it.
The communities that grow up. Around growing food and the sheer presence, it required right to weed. A bed of kale for three hours is something that took a hold of my imagination and I kept pursuing it. So I worked on that farm. I did a [00:08:00] semester program in high school called the mountain school. You may have heard of similar programs like class at sea high mountain Institute.
Mine was on. A working farm in verse in verse your Vermont. Uh, and we also took classes and wrote about reading the forest and plants. So it’s a passion I explored throughout high school. I was also really committed to dance. It’s been a passion of mine since I was a child. I was in my high school is dance company.
And gosh, we did so many amazing dance works. Like one of them was this. Dance theater piece in a horse arena. Like we literally did a performance with live forces. Uh, another one we did a production juxtaposing, Alison Wonderland with Andy Warhols factory and we did film and live dance and we had live music.
So dance is something. I was heavily invested in. I spent a lot of my time doing it, uh, in [00:09:00] line with my interest in sustainable agriculture. I started a school garden at my high school, along with a friend, uh, and I did volunteering, particularly volunteering at a local integrated preschool. Near my high school, um, and an integrated preschool means that it serves both neurodiverse and neuro-typical children.
So I, I, uh, volunteered in the classroom and it was a part of, one of my high school classes, actually literature of service. So I ended up writing about it quite a bit.
So now we’re going to talk about our college application application process. So I think it was a little bit different for Zoe as compared to what it was for me. Um, because I applied as an international student and obviously like it’s a little bit more competitive and a little bit harder to get financial aid.
So my decision making process was. Um, like very [00:10:00] different, I guess my strategy was essentially that, um, I did not think that I would be able to afford school in America and I wasn’t really, I wasn’t too keen on going to America simply because the immigration laws and just like the overall like environment around international students is not, so it’s not like that.
Good. Um, so I was like very particular that there was only. Like four schools that I was willing to go down there, Erica for it and pay the kind of money that international students have to pay. So I ended up applying to, um, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and Princeton. Um, and I think that it was like really good for me because I was able to really spend a lot of.
On the schools that I actually wanted to go to like Stanford in particular, there was my dream school and I applied early. I was just able to spend like an entire month writing my essays, really like going down into what, like Stanford looks for it and then trying to see what types of my personality near that.[00:11:00]
Um, and then, yeah, the way I kind of wrote my essays, I think the biggest piece of advice is that you don’t need to like, make yourself seem more interesting or more complete than you actually are. Um, but just like. Um, like in the most authentic way possible. And that’s like the best way to like, get the admissions officers to like, truly connect with you.
And, um, yeah, again, like just focus on your own journey. Like, don’t look at what everyone else is doing, because I do remember when I was applying, like everyone was applying to like 30 colleges and I was like, should I be doing that? Like, am I making a mistake? But I think it was very important for me to like, know what I needed and, um, go along that.
And also the last piece of advice that I really followed when I was writing my essays was that, um, instead of being the kind of person who’s trying to be impressive, I watched a YouTube video and the person said be the kind of Christian someone would want to be friends with. So someone would want to [00:12:00] like go get coffee with after they read their application.
So I like try to write my essay from the perspective of like, I was trying to be friends with the admissions officer versus like I was trying to get them to be in. So that was, um, a little peer reflections from my college applications, this, so in terms of my application process, that’s right. I applied to college nine almost 10 years ago.
Uh, went to college and since then have been working with, you know, upwards of 60 students helping them get into college. Uh, but so this was my personal experience. I applied RD, meaning regular decision to eight school. It was really important for me to apply regular decision. Because again, I was very steadfast about the idea, like, I know I’m going to change because I went through this whole arc, right.
Freshman year, I fell in love with you. It just took a hold of my imagination and it was the school for me. And [00:13:00] then I went through an antiestablishment phase and I was like, I’m not applying to any IVs. And then by senior year, I came back around to it. And I, I had seen that happen in myself. And I was like, gosh, you know, what’s going to change between now when I submit my applications in the fall and when I’m actually matriculating out of college.
So it was really important to me not to be bound to a school and actually applying regular decision to all of my schools, opened me up to other opportunities. I was nominated by my school for the Jefferson. The Jefferson scholarship, which is the full ride offered at UVA, very prestigious scholarship.
And you can’t commit yourself anywhere else because you have to have the door open for this scholarship. And it ended up being an amazing experience. Um, when I was applying to colleges, I was focusing on small liberal arts colleges. Swarthmore had my heart. Uh, Yale was actually the largest school that I was seriously considering.
Uh, and. I started writing my essays over the summer before my senior year, I [00:14:00] loved essay writing and I also was a really dedicated student and I spent a lot of time being a student. So I didn’t want that to overlap with the fall of my senior year. So I did a lot of work over the summer and I really enjoyed it.
I loved writing about myself and being introspective. Financial aid was also really important for me and my family. Um, you know, it’s me, single mom and college was not going to be affordable if I didn’t have financial aid. So I applied to the schools that were generous with financial aid and it was ultimately a huge part of my final decision and where to go to school because deal was incredibly generous.
Uh, I qualified for a lot of need-based aid and they met all of it. And then what I wish I had known again, I was, I was like this little antiestablishment, you know, I’m not going to play any games to get into college. So like me or they don’t little did I know that is a strategy and it’s actually a very good strategy for applying to colleges to be yourself.[00:15:00]
And it actually, like, it’s important to go in with the strategy, particularly these days, because college admissions, it just keeps getting more competitive. So. To know who you are and how you want to present yourself. And again, like how you want to show alignment with the schools that you’re applying to.
It’s not enough to just sell yourself. You have to know this is what the school and applying to values. Uh, and this is how I align with it.
All right. Let’s move on to the next slide here. What extracurriculars we do in college. Uh, and I, I. Went through my college experience and it very much mirrored, uh, my high school activities. So dance was hugely important for me. Uh, so, uh, I was a part of a company called a different drum dance company at the dance company.
I was in leadership three of my four [00:16:00] years at Yale and my junior year, I was artistic director. My senior year, I was president. It took up a huge part of my life and it was a huge part of my identifiers. A lot of my very best friends came from that dance company. Uh, and I was actually. Nominated for the subtler prize.
I think it’s called at Yale for the performing arts. I was also, I worked on the old farm, so it was part of how. I helped pay for my college education. Right. I contributed to it by having a campus job. I worked on the farm and my positions. I started for my first two years as a farm manager. And then it became a senior advisor, uh, deciding how the farm would run and giving advice about how to maintain a sustainable, inclusive community.
I was also part of yield dance theater. Uh, we’ve worked with amazing companies that came through, uh, I’ll put them con was a company we worked through. We worked with dancers, uh, from Alvin [00:17:00] Ailey. Uh, it was an incredibly formative experience. And actually I ended up structuring, um, and independent study my senior year around this extracurricular called the LDNs theater, which actually I think now is called yield.
And then I also volunteered with a literary magazine called Elm city echo. Uh, it is written and sold by new Haven’s on house population. So as a volunteer, I would go to shelters and I’d find interested individuals and help them write their pieces and help them publish so that they then had their writing and their art in this literary magazine that they could sell.
And that could be a source of income. I don’t know if you want to talk about your gap year. Yeah. So I was just gonna say that, um, I haven’t gone to college, but I can talk a little bit about, um, like what I’m doing at the moment. I’ll my gap year. And it’s like very much, um, also mirroring the kind of stuff that I was interested in in high school.[00:18:00]
Um, I was like really, really passionate about education, like I said earlier, and now I had the time to kind of. To kind of like get back into it. So a friend and I are actually working on an ed tech, um, like ed tech application for students in low-income India. And Berlanti about like how to make apps.
We’re learning about learning sciences or private, like a Stanford, um, startup accelerator by statics. And I’m just really getting a chance to learn about entrepreneurship and like education and CS and like a way that I never had before. And I’m really grateful for the amount of time I have to like, explore these things with like content I wouldn’t have had the chance to do so in college.
Um, and then also I’m actually moved. I’ve actually moved to Sydney for my gap year. Um, I’ve been living here for three months and I’m going to probably live here until I go to Stanford in the fall. [00:19:00] And that’s really nice. I’m like traveling, I’m learning to. Going a lot. Um, yeah, that’s about like the stuff that I’m doing in my gap year.
I, again, like a lot of the time, like, especially applying like undecided, I had a lot of interests that I couldn’t really fully like indulgent, but I think the gap year is really helping me do that. Um, and a lot of them aren’t academic. Like I’ve always wanted to, I went, I’ve always wanted to learn how to stare.
I’m really scared of Heights and deep water. And I’ve been able to like, overcome that really well in my gap year. Cause I’ve been just like swimming in the open ocean. So, um, yeah, that’s kind of what I’ve been up to.
Okay. So choosing classes and undecided major, it’s exciting. And it’s a hurdle, right? Because your, your path is not quite as structured for you. And my advice in navigating this is to enjoy the [00:20:00] exploration, right. Look into different fields. I think if I can remember my first year courses, I think I took American literature, a class called first order logic.
Uh, What else did I take? God knows, but in varied fields, like they were all in humanities, social studies, they were things I thought I might be interested in. Oh, I remember environmental anthropology. I thought, wow, this is the intersection of exactly what I want to do. This will be my major. I took it the first semester of my freshman year.
Turns out I hate anthropology. Uh, I loved the ideas of the class, but the wishy washiness of anthropology. Frustrated me. I liked the speculation that I could do with literary analysis and historical analysis, rather than the shades of gray. You always have to walk in with the anthropology. Um, so right. I got to try out that course and realize, you know what, that’s actually not the route.
I [00:21:00] want to go. Let me try something else. Uh, I think going into the course catalog is the most fun experience of starting any semester. Um, School. So, uh, dig into your course catalog and listen to your gut reaction. Like you’ll be really excited by some classes, sign up for those. If there are some classes that seem, oh, I’m nervous, but in a good way, they scare you in a way that this would challenge me, try it out.
Um, and then you’ll find classes that just don’t interest you. Uh, And then you can also ask other students about their favorite classes. That’s how I found some of the best classes I took at Yale. Uh, and if you’re leaning towards a couple of majors, you should look at their prerequisites. Sometimes people apply undecided because they can’t decide between two, maybe three different majors.
Different majors will have different levels of prerequisites. And if you don’t start taking them in your freshmen year, depending on the major, it [00:22:00] could hurt you. So if you’re thinking, you know, between bio and English and theater studies start taking classes that will set you up to work towards majors, even though you haven’t chosen one.
And like I’ve been saying, right. Focus on variety in your first year to both explore and to help you narrow down. Like I did realizing, oh, anthropology is not my path. And then if you were school, has distribution requirements record required. Make sure that you’re meeting them. Uh, like I applied to mostly liberal arts colleges and they want to make sure you’re taking quantitative reasoning classes and hard science classes and humanities and writing courses.
Um, you don’t want to take only business courses, so that’s some advice I’ll move on to the next slide. Your favorite class in college? So my favorite class, if I had to pick one was called moving texts. Uh, it’s a class offered between the [00:23:00] theater studies and dance studies departments at Yale, and it investigates the intersections between language, both written and spoken and movement.
Uh, and. This was a transformative class and it’s one of those odd classes you only get to take if you’re really following your gut. So in the first couple of weeks of taking this class, we all drew like maps of our bodies. I had no idea what that was going to be like. And then I saw other people do their presentations before I gave mine.
And there were beautiful things like this is where I hold the memories of my father. This is where I hold the memories of my mother. This, you know, this part of my body is the verb. This part of my body is the adjective and it expanded the way I understood my body and lived in it as someone who’s been a lifelong dancer and also.
So I got to really explore how these things affected each other. And it was mind boggling. I got really close [00:24:00] with the people in that class and involved a lot of yelling. Like we disagree about the meaning of art and how we define it. And, uh, we had conversations that I still think about to this day. And then some runners up.
Cause I took so many classes in college that I loved. One of them was religion, ecology, and cosmology. It inspired my entire major. Uh, it was a course offered between the divinity school and the forestry school at Yale. And it’s, it basically made me question. How do religions world religions affect the way we interact with and perceive the.
80% of the world identifies as religious. So how can we mobilize that belief and that fervor to help people care about stewarding the environment. That was one of the core questions. And then I also took this great class called gender justice and the environment, uh, and it was one of my social awakenings.
It was the first time I learned about personal [00:25:00] preferred pronouns, uh, and. Yeah, it was a great class taught by a great professor, professor aid guard Jones. Um, so those are some great classes. Again, one of the benefits of being applying as an undecided major, you get to for yourself, not have preconceived notions of what you should or should not do.
So I took classes in so many different arenas, uh, and these were some of the most memorable.
All right. So pros and cons of applying undecided. Pros, you can present your interest in things on your own terms, right? So I think sometimes if students are applying, you know, I’m interested in the pre-med track or I want to be a lawyer someday, they have a very clear idea of what their activities should look like.
And sometimes admissions officers will have preconceived ideas. Okay. You’re indicating an interest in medicine, then your [00:26:00] activities should reflect that stuff. If you’re undecided, you get to display your activities on your own terms without those boxes. Uh, and you also get to show diversity in your activity list without worrying about creating one cohesive theme.
That’s something Ashita was mentioning earlier. I think she’s struggling getting in and out of the webinar, but hopefully she’ll be back in. Um, and then right for yourself. Applying undecided, you start your college education without a preconceived notion of what you should be studying. You get to explore your interests and really check your assumptions.
Cons it can be harder to show a clear theme in your application, which is something that helps a good application stand out. So you have to dig. A little deeper to figure out, okay. Why do I care about what I care about for me? I didn’t write any essays about why anthropology or why, why environmental studies, but I did talk [00:27:00] about my passion for seminar seminar style discussions and my passion for, for unraveling the motivations behind human behavior.
And the way I can study that through literature history, environmental studies. So once I’d figured out that that was one of my core motivations, it helped me then figure out how to present my. And then also another con of deciding, uh, applying to a college undecided is that if you’re applying to a research university, these types of universities tend to have multiple smaller colleges within them.
Right. They’ll have their school of engineering, their school of letters of arts and sciences, uh, their school of business. And if you have to choose one of those schools, if you’re applying undecided, it can be hard to choose. Ooh, gosh, what direction do I want to go in? I think. Generally a liberal arts curriculum works really well for people who are undecided because the liberal arts education, whether [00:28:00] you’re going to a small liberal arts college or going to the liberal arts college within a larger research university, it allows you to explore your interests.
Like Sheila was saying, you know, she had. A year, a little bit more to decide what she wants her major to be at Yale. I didn’t have to declare my major until the end of sophomore year. So I had two full years to really figure it out.
So now we’ve entered the Q and a portion of our call.
Um, Uh, hello? Hello again. Um, so yes, we’ve come to the QA portion. That’s the end of the presentation. Um, I hope you found all the information helpful, and remember, you can download all the slides in the handouts tab or from the link in the public chat. So for the live Q and a I’ll read through the questions you submitted in the Q and a tab, paste them in the public chat.
You can [00:29:00] see and then read them out loud before a panelists, give you an answer. If you can direct your question to one panelist or all, uh, either works and they will, uh, have an answer as a heads up. If your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not the webinar landing page.
Um, you should, I. Yes, we can hear you. Great. You can hear me. Okay. Can you see me? We cannot see you.
Oh, we can see you now. Great. Okay. Very exciting. Everyone’s back. Um, so our first question is for you, Sheila, did you have to reapply for Stanford? Uh, for class of 20, 25 after your gap year, or did your acceptance transfer? Um, my acceptance actually did [00:30:00] transfer and they’re actually very flexible with who gets to take a gap year.
Um, a lot of schools actually encourage it. Um, so yeah, um, if you’re thinking of it and if you want to take like a break from your studies, um, like once you get into whatever college you want to go through, you can always request, um, to defer a year and joined a year after. One thing I want to add here is I ended up taking.
A year, uh, between my sophomore and junior years. And it was not because I found you all overwhelming. I loved you. It was because I wanted to take the values I had developed on campus and test them out in the real world. Like I said, I was really invested in farming, so I wanted to go farm for a year and Yale was made it so easy.
I went into my Dean’s office. I presented the reasons you said. Cool. I think that’s brilliant. Have fun. And. Nothing. I didn’t have to reapply for anything. My financial aid held over. Uh, they made it very easy for me to [00:31:00] have this, what was ended up being a very life-changing informative experience. So it came at a different time than she was experienced.
But, um, I had a similar ease with, uh, having that experience from Yale also to add to that. Um, I think Stanford has something called a flex quarter as well, which is, um, kind of like a leave of absence, which is, I think what Zoe took, but also you kind of get to still get involved in clubs on campus. So you get to in Berlin five units and do Stanford clubs while you can also go out and do whatever you want.
So schools that always have like a lot of options to let you kind of go off on your own, into the real. Well, but if you’re an international student, it can damage your visa timeline. If you were to take like time off in the middle of your, um, like education, because you only get the visa [00:32:00] for four years.
So if you’re thinking of that, just, um, make sure you understand the nuances of the visa.
Okay. So our next question is for someone who isn’t as good at writing about themselves, how would you suggest practicing for essay writing? So, uh, I work with a lot of students in this. Like I said, I’ve worked with more than 60, 65 students throughout the college application process. And I’ve helped them get acceptance to schools like Stanford, U Penn.
Lots of top tier schools, and this is something we struggle with. It is hard for so many teenagers to write about themselves because it’s not a skill that we learn typically, uh, in high school. So I think a good way to start practicing is journaling, right? It’s a way for you to write about yourself in a way for you to excavate, what matters to you.
And I think it’s also not. [00:33:00] A matter of jumping right in to practicing writing your college essay. Right. So let’s think about it strategically. What sorts of things do I want to show about myself in my college applications? What do I care about now? What were formative experiences in the past? How do I want to have an impact in the future?
On my college community, on the world. And these are sorts of questions that will help you in writing your college essays. So if you think about it before. And then that will really serve you well, and you’ll have much more reflective introspective essays than someone who hasn’t gone through those steps.
And to kind of add to that, um, I feel like journaling was such an important skill. Like I didn’t even realize how important it was until you mentioned it right now. But, um, another thing that I did was whenever I did. Like a cool or creative idea, or like an idea that felt cooler, creative. It could have actually been really dumb.
Like in hindsight, I would always read it down [00:34:00] into this Google document or like a journal that I had. Um, and it wasn’t just like, um, journaling about like my days that I would kind of write about like my goals for the future, what I liked, what I didn’t like. I’d like ask like really stupid questions. I just grabbed them.
And a lot of them like really form the basis of a lot of my essays. Cause when I didn’t have, if I had like a mental block while I was writing, I would kind of look at what I’d written earlier. I look at like successful essays from other applicants and I’d see how they’d connected their ideas into essays.
And I would try to do this thing. Yeah. I often end up recommending that my students have a hand or like a notebook, whether it’s on their computer or it’s physical, that they write ideas in, whether it’s for a college essay or about an extracurricular. I loved and experience I had because the most.
Meaningful essays tend to come from small mundane moments. I’ve seen masterful essays about riding an Uber about paperclips, about an arcade game. [00:35:00] Uh, and you don’t necessarily think that’s what you’re going to write about for college. So allow yourself that experience of just listing, uh, and letting the ideas come to you.
I have one word. Yeah. Um, if you’re the one who kind of, um, struggles to a quickly kind of put together, In a way that’s satisfying to read. Cause I know a lot of people who struggle with that, um, another thing that like I would always recommend is reading, but also identifying kind of like what makes writing good.
Like I would find myself doing this a lot. I would read like good writing and I’d be like, okay, so this is how they kind of use language to convey points. And it’s very similar to what you do in English. Classmates teach you how to like analyze texts. What’s the movies and metaphors. Like really pay attention to that.
Cause that’s gonna, those skills are gonna help you so much and apply them to your real life. And then you’ll start applying them to your S if [00:36:00] it’s that’s all great advice. Um, okay. Next question. When choosing classes as an undecided major, what tips do you have to make sure you don’t venture too much so that some of the credits can count for one’s future decided major.
I think, um, it’s again, keeping in mind the classes that will count towards core requirements, because a lot of majors, they start with simpler prerequisites, and then they get more and more specific that you’ll have specific classes you need to take in junior year or senior year. But the first year the classes tend to be.
More foundational. So if you think you might be interested in biology, take that biology 1 0 1 class, because there are going to be hundreds of kids in that class. You don’t want to have to take that in junior year and you have to take it before you take more specialized classes. So it’s a job of both exploring [00:37:00] and speculating strategically.
This is something I might. So let me hedge my bets and tape an intro course for this area. And then also you get to start testing it out, realizing, oh gosh, like I do like studying the human body, but not that way. So let me find, maybe I want to do chemistry instead, or maybe I want to study the human body through sports medicine.
Right? You start answering those questions for yourself.
Um, I have not seen the ad cause I haven’t chosen any classes yet. Yeah. I think, I think all of those are great points and I do think that taking a class is the fastest way to find out if you don’t like something. Um, okay. We’ve had a, you variations on this question this essentially, um, sorry, I’m going to find one to copy and paste it.
[00:38:00] Um, when do you need to decide to major, when do you have, if you’re coming in undecided, when do you have to decide it will vary school to school? Uh, some schools want you to know freshman year and like, uh, for Gail I’ll speak to my experience. We don’t have to declare until the end of your sophomore year, which I found so liberating.
And I think a lot of people choose liberal arts education model. Or some people do because they want that time to figure it out, but it will entirely depend on what schools you’re applying to. There’s no single standard. I also want to add at this point that it also depends like on what you want to major in, because I know that if you want to do like, um, like business at Wharton or like ECS at Berkeley, you have to like, know that while you’re applying.
And like, you can switch out of it, but then you can switch back in. So, um, [00:39:00] like I know schools like Stanford and Yale are really liberal and they kind of have that philosophy of letting kids move around, like as freely as they like. But, um, it, again, really depends on what school you’re in and I’m really fortunate that my school allows it, but just do the research specifically to yours.
Yeah, all of that is, is great. Okay. So we’re partway through the Q and a as a quick break. I want to let you know what you can do after this webinar. If you want to get help on your college apps from any of our panelists or from other advisors at CollegeAdvisor, we have two monthly advising plans, the starter plan and the scholar.
They’re both monthly subscriptions, where you get matched with an advisor of your choice and you get one or two hours of one-on-one advising each month. We also have larger packages that come with a set number of hours and an extended relationship with your advisor. As advisors, we will work with you on your college essays, choosing schools, [00:40:00] interviews, and even more.
I’m sending everyone AF at this panel, a link to get started right now.
And, uh, the offer links to our page to sign up and get started. Our students at CollegeAdvisor have had a ton of success. This past admissions season. We had CollegeAdvisor clients get into all the IVs and every top 25 school in the country. Our clients rate us at 9.8 out of 10, and that’s because our wonderful advisors put a ton of care into working with you.
One-on-one through every step of the application. If you want to discuss this one-on-one with me or with, uh, any of the great presenters, uh, this is your chance to work with us. And let’s go to the next question. Uh, someone asked what if your school does not offer many extracurriculars to express yourself in?
So I think that, um, like I get this question from [00:41:00] a lot of people, like when they’re asking me for advice and stuff, and I think. My personal response to that would be two things. First, everything your school does, like take as much advantage of it as you can and do it. Well, my school did not offer us as much as at least other schools in the area, which is why I ended up just trying out a lot of things that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Um, like I wasn’t really much of a public speaker, but because my school offered. I just did MUN and then I gained this new skill of public speaking, which is really amazing. So, and then I got really good at it as well. So I think the one thing is like the ticket and then also Excel at everything the school offers.
And then the second thing is kind of go out there and like find your own opportunities and create your own opportunities. Um, so for. Um, it was just creating like my Instagram page, which anyone can do. Anyone can make an Instagram page and talk about issues that they’re [00:42:00] passionate about or standing up for an essay competition or standing up to chair like Harvard model UN I was reaching out to opportunities that no one else was stopping me from doing even volunteering.
I reached out to schools in my area and asked if I could teach low income students. And a lot of it wasn’t facilitated by. But, um, I think that as long as you like push yourself to find opportunities and make those opportunities for yourself, um, you should be saying. Yeah. I think, especially during COVID creating opportunities for yourself as the name of the game, because a lot of institutionalized programs are at a standstill.
They don’t know how to operate in this new kind of world. So you have to take advantage of the opportunities that have been handed to you. Yes, they’re different and yes, they’re intimidating, but you can get creative in response to them. And. I think even before COVID hit, I’ve seen dozens of extracurricular profiles and the ones that stand out most are the ones where [00:43:00] students created opportunities for themselves.
Not only in leadership, but in doing research and something that no one told them they should do, but because they were genuinely interested in it or realize that. Hey, my school is really under-resourced and we need more resources. So I’m going to start three different stem clubs. I’m going to get a $4,000 valued free program for my school for self-driving cars, uh, and students who do things like that.
They demonstrate to a college. I am able to take advantage of the incredible resources you offer, right? At schools like Stanford and Yale have so much money. They have so many resources and they want to accept students who will come onto campus and be able to make something of those resources. So as much as you can demonstrate that that will only help you in the college application process.
Great. Um, I think this is kind of [00:44:00] related to the last question. Um, but the next question is how do you present yourself as a person who is determined and motivated as an undecided major? So I can answer that. Um, I think that, um, like applying as an undecided major, it’s often seen as like a disadvantage it’s often seen as like, oh, they’re like this student does know what they’re doing, but it’s really not that it’s just.
Um, like you are motivated and you are like excited for learning. It’s just, you don’t feel ready at the age of like 16 or 17 to commit yourself to a field of study, which is a very reasonable thing to see. Um, and as for how you can kind of convey that, um, when you’re writing, when you’re like writing your essays, like really talk about like your intellectual curiosity and stuff.
So in Stanford, they have an essay asking us about. Uh, [00:45:00] topic of study that makes you genuinely excited for learning and over there, I actually used being undecided as an advantage to myself because I wrote about how I approach every social problem with an interdisciplinary lens. I looked at it from an economic as an economics, as a science.
And as someone who was like understanding the technology around me and I was kind of demonstrating to the admissions committee, that I was curious about it, about things that’s curious and motivated to learn just in a slightly unconventional way. And as long as you do that, or at least it works and I think it should work for you in your work for me, a similar question I saw that was pre submitted in many different iterations.
We’ll apply an undecided harm. My chances of getting into a university or college and the answer is no. And I’ve talked about this at length with our head of advising Lauren Lynch, she has been doing, working in admissions, this landscape for more than [00:46:00] 20 years. She was an admissions officer at Williams, which is one of the most elite and competitive, small liberal arts colleges in the country.
Very much on par with the IVs, um, and her. Party line is absolutely you can apply undecided. What ends up harming a student is if they choose an esoteric major, something that’s completely unfounded by their application, and they have no reason for choosing it. And you can, and admissions officers are really good at cutting through that.
They can see. When a major was chosen randomly, they much rather a student choose undecided and show the kind of self-awareness the issue that was talking about. Uh, you can still show motivation, determination through self-awareness, uh, and. Conveying your passion. So I’m applying to decided will not hurt you at all, but it then a lot of, I think, more weight falls on your essays to show, Hey, I do know things [00:47:00] about myself and I have very diverse interests and here’s why it’s founded this interest in an undecided major.
Absolutely. Okay. Next question. Um, And, uh, she said that this can also be for your past year or the, uh, the application process, but was there a time in your college experience where you had faced adversity or burnout? If so, how did you overcome it? Um, I definitely felt it, um, when I finished like graduating school, um, I had, I actually taken on a really difficult math.
And I was self studying it. Um, and it kind of like completely burnt me out. But I think that like taking the gap year in that sense really helped me because I was almost able to like distance myself from math and kind of like [00:48:00] heal my relationship with math because I had a really bad experience, like learning math in high school.
And I’m just like, hoping that when I get back into college, it will be better. But yeah, it was just when. Oh really intense course. And did not have the time to sell, study it as our school do not teach it to us. Yeah. So in terms of burnout, I think I actually experienced it when I came back from my year off, I had done my first two years of you.
And then I had lived on a farm on an island off the coast of Massachusetts for 15 months. And I had gotten used to a very isolated, slow pace of life. And college life is not like that. You get on campus and you’re doing, you’re going your damn thing and taking five classes and so stimulated. And I was so excited to be back, but it was a big adjustment.
And, um, I can say that. You will meet some of [00:49:00] the best friends of your life in college and you will develop really meaningful relationships. And those are the ones that made me realize, okay, I am grounded. I can get through this and ended up really enjoying it. So it’s just about taking a breather when you need it, because no matter what, you’ll hit a wall in one way or another, whether it’s freshman year and it’s hard to find friends or, uh, Senior year, and you’re struggling with your thesis.
It’s about acknowledging that and saying, I am a full person and my college actually gives me the opportunities to be a full person. That is something I loved about Yale is that I actually. Fleshed out. I became a less of a book nerd. I was still a book nerd, but I embraced all the other things about me that made me a full human, rather than just a floating brain who liked to study a lot.
Uh, so I, I became less uptight and less likely to burn out in general than I was in high school. [00:50:00] That’s great. Um, okay. Uh, what advice would you give to someone who’s unsure about their.
I would say, um, if you’re like unsure about your interests, um, don’t feel pressured to kind of commit to one thing. I know that at least in the school that I went into, like people would be like, oh, like, what do you want to major in, in college? And like ninth grade. And I would be like, I don’t know. Um, so I would say like, don’t, don’t approach high school, the classes you take, the activities you do from the lens of what I want to major in college.
Um, but instead have what you want to major in college, kind of be defined by the things that you do, because if you do things that you’re naturally interested in, you’ll end up excelling in that. And then, um, kind of using that as some, as a stepping stone for what you want to do for the last, the rest of your life.
So I would suggest like, if you like read a book and you were interested in [00:51:00] like, I dunno, climate change, then read more books about climate change, watch videos, see how you can get them. Um, and if anything catches your attention, like really pursue it, um, all the way till the end elite, either until it turns into something big or until you realize that it’s not what you want to do and it fizzles out and that do that in high school.
And then you’ll also at least, I think I want to be doing that in college as well. And yeah, it’s just exploration. I think that was amazing advice to do, stay true to yourself because admissions officers have seen like the standard profile thousands of times, and it gets boring and it gets hard to see the human behind it.
So what actually ends up being the most impressive extracurricular profile and the most interesting class roster. Are the ones that are genuinely motivated and it’s, it’s ironic, right? The things that set you up best for getting into selective colleges are [00:52:00] being true to your passions rather than doing what you should do.
Uh, it’s all individualized w no single application process can be replicated because we’re all unique individuals. Uh, and it’s about getting in touch with that and knowing how to. Find leadership and impact and community engagement within your own interests. And to kind of add to that, a lot of people in my schools were like doing very, like, very like guided trajectories.
Like they knew they wanted to do CS. They do like Intel science fair they’d win like 10 other competitions. And they’d get like, did obviously be like on top of their game or what they were doing. And like, obviously everyone thought that they would get. But it was really surprising at the end of the day when, like, it was me who got into Stanford, a lot of kids outside of school, like applied to Stanford in my school.
So, um, it was just really interesting because I think that even though my [00:53:00] application was not as impressive as my competition, it was more authentic and it genuinely showed like creativity and like kind of a willingness to explore and learn. And I think at least personally, I think that’s more valuable than a bunch of.
At a very young age. Okay. I think this is maybe going to be our last question. We’ll see. Um, maybe second to last, but, uh, was it hard to decide where to go without knowing what you wanted to study? Since some schools are better for certain things than others?
That’s a great question. Uh, my decision was very guided by school revisits. Once you get into a school, they often host a weekend where you go and you experience it. And. You get a vibe check. Like when you walk onto a campus, you interrupt the students, you go into classes, [00:54:00] you start imagining can I imagine myself here?
Can’t I find my people here and can I craft a life? I’ll be happy with. So to me it was like this really intangible thing. That’s hard to communicate and hard to figure out for yourself, but you’ll know it when you feel it. Uh, I was not making my decision at all. Based on major, I was looking at, Hey, does this school have resources I’m interested in?
Do they have a school farm? Do they have a good dance program? Are they strong in the humanities? I still had ways to evaluate the school and. Those were the schools that ended up in my top and then, you know, financial aid, like I said before, it was a huge part of my final decision.
And as for me, I was not lucky enough to get to visit schools because obviously I live across the world. But, uh, for me, I actually chose Stanford as my top choice because of the focus they had on interdisciplinary learning and because of how. [00:55:00] Majoring in something actually mattered at Stanford. So that was kind of how I took my decision.
I just wanted to be at a school where I could explore my interests and I think Stanford allowed that.
Oh, Hannah, I think you’re on mute. Thank you. Um, I think we might actually have time for one more. So let’s, uh, the last question will be, if I do enter with a major, will I still be able to take classes I find interest in, or will there be a plan or a path I must follow it’ll depend on your major. Some majors tend to be very rigorous, right?
I’ll go to the most extreme end if you’re applying to a BSMD program, which is a [00:56:00] combined undergrad and getting your med degree, like a seven year trajectory. And one go, most of your classes are spoken for just by fulfilling the requirements for that program. You have to take all the classes that will prepare you for med school.
So you won’t have a lot of space to explore, but like I took religious studies largely because it had very few prerequisites and it allowed me to form a concentration within it because I really liked studying the intersection between. Basically sociology like humans, what they do and why, and the environment and sustainability.
And I was able to create that through religious studies. And I still took classes in dance study is I took a junction religion. I, you know, took philosophy courses. It will entirely depend on the major you choose and the school you go to, but you should still be able to take classes outside of your major, at least a couple.[00:57:00]
Okay. Um, that’s going to be the end of our Q and a. Here is the information on our pres oh, that’s our, those are our starter and scholar plants. Um, here’s the information on our presenters. If you missed it at the beginning. And I think we’re going to end our webinar in a minute. So thank you all for coming.
We had a really wonderful time telling you about undecided majors. I hope this webinar was helpful to you and that you feel more prepared with your college applications and goals. We have a brand new webinar series for February about specific majors, which you can see here. And, uh, thank you so much for coming out to tonight’s side.
Have a wonderful rest of your night.