A Case for the Undeclared Option

Posted by Adam Mendonca

Engineering. That is exactly what field I told my high school friends I’d go into. It was what I told them I’d major in during college. I, myself, was pretty sure that I was going to major in some field in engineering (specifically what kind is a different story).

So when I came back during winter break announcing I was undeclared, everyone (including myself) was surprised. At the advice of an older McDermott Scholar, I decided to go into college “undeclared” and take a dive1 into the world of indecision.

With my new freedom in taking whatever classes I wanted, my first semester classes included the following:

  1. Ethics and Social Issues in Computer Science and Engineering (highly recommend this class with Dr. Dow)
  2. Theoretical Concepts of Calculus (only Math majors/minors take this class)
  3. Differential Equations
  4. Chinese 2
  5. Native American Cultures
  6. Freshmen Seminar in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

From this schedule, many people were confused as to what my major was. I’m not going to lie; I was confused as to what my major would be as well. But that was probably one of the best semesters at UT Dallas due to the variety of classes I was taking. While I love taking engineering classes as 11/17 of my total hours are now, it was a fun and stimulating experience to take 17 hours with very little field overlap. It also exposed me to other potential majors (the most obvious one being math) that I could consider switching to. With respect to that, it was an incredibly beneficial semester because it taught me that I was missing engineering classes and that I wanted to not major in math. This coupled with my spring 2014 semester with engineering courses affirmed my selection of major as Electrical Engineering.

However the best part of being undeclared is the advisor; Eric Welgehausen is not only one of the nicest people whom I have met on campus, but he knows how to get things done. During my first semester, he helped place me in a few advanced classes that would have otherwise been more difficult to get into. In addition, he is a great person to bounce ideas off of, whether it is what major to declare (obviously), study abroad options, or places to work. Still to this day when I walk down campus and see Eric, he says “Hi Adam, how’re you doing?” in his enthusiastic voice.

While I was undeclared for only one year due to the requirement of declaring by the end of my freshmen year,2 it was an experience that I think many college students don’t take advantage of. I think the chance to not be tied down to a specific school is a great opportunity to explore around, intellectually. And if you end up choosing the major that you thought you’d start with, then great – you’ve reaffirmed your choice like I did. If you end up switching to something else, then that’s even better! And while I know being undeclared isn’t for everyone, I think many people would benefit from it.

[1]: You can read about my REAL dives on my previous post.
[2]: At the end of freshmen year I had enough hours to be classified as a junior, and as a junior you MUST declare a major, to my dismay.

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