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  • Writer's pictureCareer Center

8 Things Every Undeclared Student Should Know

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

Not sure which major to choose? Feeling uncertain about your academic options? The Career Center and CAS Academic Advising Office collaborated to bring you this advice.

Start with What you know (but may not realize you know)

Mind mapping is a great way to start to get ideas. Begin with an empty dry erase board or large piece of notebook paper. Start to think about all of the interesting and significant things you’ve done or that have happened to you. Write down your thoughts, anything that comes to mind. You can go back as far as you want. Think more in key words, short phrases or draw pictures. Write as many as you want and don’t try to organize them. Once you have a few ideas in place, continue to develop the thoughts by adding skills, examples, experiences, and other details related to the idea.

  • What classes were the most interesting in High school or college?

  • What activities give you the most energy?

  • What are you good at?

  • What topics do you like to read about or learn about the most?

  • What is unique about you?

  • Which characteristics would your friends use to describe you?

  • What social or fun activities are you drawn to?

  • What TV/movie character’s job seem the most interesting?

  • What skills do you feel naturally good at or drawn to?

Are there any patterns? What could these differing experiences have in common? What did you learn or what strengths did you acquire by pursuing a particular activity? Begin to look for overlapping themes or ideas. And lastly, consider what academic programs best align to your mind map themes?

Want help and space to create your own mind map? Stop by the Career Center and join the team during Career Lab, our drop-in career question hours. During the semester, lab runs Mon-Fri, 11 am - 4 pm in MG Hall Ste. 500. Throughout the summer Career Lab is held virtually. Visit Handshake events and search career lab for details.

2. Connect with a Lehigh Alumni from your program of interest

One of the best ways to learn about an academic major options is to talk to a graduate from the program who has first hand experience. Lehigh Connects is a growing network of alum from every major on campus who have volunteered to support students with academic and career exploration and prep. Log in to browse the network of over 6000 profiles (numbers as of June 2023), and filter by an academic major of your choosing. Send a message, ask questions and get to know the reasons the alum chose their academic programs.

  • What did you consider before choosing your major?

  • How did you decide on a major/minor combination?

  • What class(es) did you take that helped you decide on a major?

  • What books or articles were helpful in introducing you to concepts and skills from the academic program?

  • What faculty would you suggest I speak to in order to better understand the major?

  • How did your academic major prepare you for your career?

  • What was one of your favorite classes/skills/assignments you learned from a class

Example message:

Dear {Alumni name},

I am currently an undeclared freshman at Lehigh University. As I consider some of the academic majors I also hope to learn more about the career paths that connect to them, including careers in the non-profit industry. I was drawn to the philanthropy you mentioned on your profile on Lehigh Connects. Can you tell me more about the first jobs you had and how you got established? What drew you to working in the non-profit world? What are skills you use every day? How much of your day do you work independently vs collaborating with a team? How did you choose your academic major and what influenced your decision?

Thank you for any insight or advice you can provide. I would love to learn more about your role through job shadowing if there is day between Jan 2-21st that I could spend with you (I am on winter break during this time).


{Your Name}

3. Explore through Involvement on Campus

Don’t just ask questions, but go explore options in person. Check the long list of Lehigh student clubs and organizations, many of which are connected to academic programs and require only 2-4 monthly meetings. Through the Community Service Office, see if there are volunteer opportunities that relate to academic skills. Connect with faculty to inquire about semester long research options. Check Handshake for work study or on campus jobs on campus within academic departments, labs or classrooms. Perhaps most importantly, consider joining the Job Shadow Community on Lehigh Connects (with a special emphasis on arranging job shadowing during winter break) which connects students to alumni hosts. Whatever your choice, the point is to explore in person for yourself. The advantage of being in an environment that relates to an academic program is the ability to see if its a good fit, matches the expectations you have and learn more about the real life application of academics.

4. Take a Career Assessment

Still feeling clueless about where to start? Set up a meeting on Handshake to request a career assessment called STRONG to help identify career paths that align with your interests. A Career Coach will walk through your results with you at a follow up meeting and help you develop an action plan of steps. A career assessment can be a great way to identify which academic programs will prepare you for careers that align with your interests and talents.

5. Make an Academic Plan

The CAS Advising Center works with students who are undecided or who may be having a difficult time finding a major. Some students find their academic interests pulled in opposite directions or may find their skill sets could lead to success in several academic areas. You can start by visiting their office to draft an academic plan that allows you to take a semester or two and explore majors through introductory courses. For most majors it would be possible for you to take some time to explore and still graduate on time, and it is a great way for you to explore your options. You can even ask professors for permission to sit in on classes you did not register for.

Not in CAS? See the information below to connect to an academic advisor for your college.

6. Talk to Faculty

You can find out about a major program by speaking to a professor in the department. Review the department’s website to identify faculty in programs of interest and collect email information. Build questions ahead of time related to the professor’s research, their own path to becoming a professor, and about the philosophy behind the major itself. This conversation may inspire a mutual interest area or even a research opportunity that will inspire a curricular path forward.

7. Explore Options with Degree Audits

If you have already explored options through coursework for more than two semesters and still feel undecided, the next step may be to review the catalog and run “what if” degree audits to see how courses you have already taken map onto potential majors. You can get help with this step by scheduling an appointment in your academic advising center. You may be surprised to find that your course history has a common theme that may lend itself naturally to a major.

8. Gain Hands on Experience

One of the most impactful ways to explore academics, is to also explore the career paths that align to them. Job shadowing, research projects, volunteer programs or internships will provide a better understanding of where an academic major can lead you after college.

Choosing a major is, well, a major decision. Take time and action before you make an academic selection so you can make an informed decision based on facts and exposure. And if you need more help, reach out to additional Lehigh resources.

Center for Career & Professional Development

Maginnes Hall, Suite 500

Career Lab - Mon-Fri, 10 am - 3 pm

College of Arts & Science Academic Advising Center

Maginnes Hall, 120

College of Business Advising Office

Rauch, 395

8:15 am - 4:45 pm

Rossin College First Year Student Advising

Jennifer Helmuth

Packard Laboratory, Room 304

Special thank you to guest blogger Beth Pelton for her contributions to this post and outstanding service to the CAS students at Lehigh University.

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