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Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Opinion: In celebration of the undecided student

Having it all figured out isn’t all it’s cracked up to be — and you don’t have to go it alone.
Image by Ava Weinreis
University programs like CAPE can help students.

Whether you find this fact liberating or terrifying, college is what you make of it – especially in an ecosystem as large as the University of Minnesota. 

There’s so much to love about a giant school like ours. People from across the globe convene here to compose the 54,955-person student body. Each classroom we enter provides a chance to explore new ideas and that learning inform our pursuits in the world.

From one small fish to another, this giant pond we call “the U” is often intimidating to navigate. Choosing from over 150 majors within 13 different colleges can make even the most decisive hopeful graduate second guess their commitment to one program or another. That uncertainty is more common than you might think.

According to the 2017 Tell Us About Yourself Pre-Orientation (TUAY) survey, 75% of 5,645 students surveyed expressed varying levels of indecisiveness about their major, with 5% having little to no clue about their interests. Lucky for those students, the Center for Academic Planning and Exploration (CAPE) is here to help. 

“We help exploring and undecided students find majors that fit for them,” said Hannah Boldt, a Change of College Coach for CAPE. 

Once a discombobulated college student herself, Boldt said their services go beyond the traditional expectations for students seeking academic advice. 

“Our appointments are one hour long,” Boldt said. “A lot of our work is co-collaborative and involves life skills like decision-making and how to navigate uncertainty.” 

Academic advisors are outnumbered and often overworked, which makes appointments to seek insight into your upcoming semester feel like some kind of NASCAR pit stop. Functional, sure. But pleasant? Not quite. 

It’s never fun to realize the dream you were chasing might not pan out the way you thought it would, but that shouldn’t stop you from confronting your truth. We’re told entering into a collegiate environment means being pushed out of the nest, but depending on your background, these systems can be incredibly challenging to navigate. 

This is especially true for non-traditional and first-generation students who are learning to walk on their own for the first time. If you’re feeling like you’re slipping between the cracks in an institution that was not built for you, you probably are.

That’s why reaching out for help is so important. 

Self-knowledge is a critical component to finding success at the University. CAPE can offer a sounding board as you uncover your personal strengths. Things like your personal values, community values and other parts of your personality and preferences are going to change the way you find success here. Getting in touch with that side of yourself doesn’t have to be done alone. 

“We’ve all had our own journeys and moments of uncertainty … so we really value authenticity,” Boldt said.“We really try to dismantle the power dynamics between students and staff.” 

If you’re feeling lost in the wild and woolly world of higher education, you’re not alone. Just because you are out of place now doesn’t mean you are stuck in there forever. Starting the conversation and going outside of the typical resources available to students can help you re-evaluate your ambitions and make the most of your college career. 

CAPE has a number of resources in addition to its advising program, such as the Major Profiles section on its website. Here, you can learn more about every major, minor and certificate program the University offers. 

“You’re going to learn and grow as you take classes, and as you figure out what works and what doesn’t work,” Boldt said. “It’s okay to learn and grow, and it’s okay that it’s a process.”

If you’re feeling uneasy in your major, start looking into alternatives today. It’s never too late to take control of your future and that starts with having the courage to explore.

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