Advising undecided students is more complex and more involved that advising students that have a clear idea of what they want to do. This section provides information and techniques that will help advisors of undecided students give their advisees the highest level of support possible.
First and foremost – these students need you!
They need a mentor more than most students. They need support in making what may be one of the most important decisions of their lives. Their scheduling choices are made more complex by being undecided, and they need someone to guide them through the sometimes difficult course selection process. Undecided students may be in more danger of dropping out than students who select a major, and quality advising helps the university retain these students. In short, you have the power to make a big positive impact on their lives and on the overall success of the university.
Freshmen should avoid working a job more than 10 hours per week if they are full-time students.
Succeeding in college is difficult and far more important to their long-term earning power than holding down a job while being a student. If the student insists that they must work 15 or more hours per week suggest that they consider going part-time. If a 15 credit student puts in one and a half hours of out of class work for every hour in class, he/she would be devoting over 30 hours per week to college. That doesn’t leave room for more than 10 hours per week for paid work.
Please reach out to your advisees and proactively communicate with them by email, phone, or through other means.
Sometimes students are undecided because they lack initiative and by reaching out to them advisors can break the student’s pattern of procrastination and avoidance.
There are two important principles to keep in mind when advising undecided students:
- Undecided students should not delay in going through the process of self-exploration and career planning that is needed to confidently select a major and an intended career field.
- Undecided students need to carefully select their courses so that they minimize the likelihood of taking courses they won’t need thereby avoiding extending their college program beyond eight full-time semesters.
BASIC MOTTO: “Don’t Rush – Don’t Delay”
Going through the process of deciding
Advisors should convey the following points to their undecided advisees during the first advising meeting…
- Undecided students should take the Career HQ Office’s suite of self-exploratory questionnaires during the first few weeks of their freshman year.
- Undecided students should make an appointment to discuss the results of these questionnaires with a career counselor.
- Undecided students should actively consult with trusted family, friends, and working professionals about the process of selecting a major and career field.
- Undecided students should understand that there are some majors (such as Nursing, Education and Visual Communication Design) that are so tightly planned that students can not be undecided for even one semester without putting themselves behind the normal 8-semester sequence.
Undecided Student Scheduling Guidelines
First determine what kind of undecided student your advisee is…
- The “I have no idea what I want to do” student – needs to be directed to go to Career HQ as soon as possible and should be given a schedule that includes generic courses without prerequisites. (See list below)
- The “I’m interested in everything” student – should consult Career HQ but should consider the possibility of a major/minor combination, a double major, or Interdisciplinary Studies. If they remain undecided as they build a schedule selecting courses from the list below would also be appropriate.
- The “I have some idea but I’m not sure” student – should select courses that apply to the range of majors he or she is considering. For instance, if a student is likely to go into some form of business related major (Business Administration, Accounting, Business Communication) then safe courses would include IS 134, ACC 121, or EC 201/202.
- The “I want to do X but mom and/or dad wants me to do Y” student – Do not take a position on which path would be best for the student. Encourage the student to meet with Career HQ, and encourage the student to communicate with his or her family. The student might also consider a double major, or majoring in X or Y and minoring in the other.
General Electives: Often being undecided means that courses taken to sample a topic, or taken based on a plan that changes, will end up being “general electives” in the major that the student finally selects. Some majors have as many as 8-10 general electives, some have none, most have 2-4. Students and advisors should know that majors with one or zero general electives will be difficult to switch into and finish in 8 full-time semesters if the first semester schedule includes any non-Core courses. ENG 148 is always a general elective.
Math Courses: Majors vary in what math courses are required. Undecided students will be disadvantaged if they take a math class that does not fit their eventual major, and yet many first semester freshmen should take the math course that is appropriate to their placement. MATH 121 and MATH 140 are generally safe choices. The first math course should be selected based on a combined assessment of appropriate placement and likely eventual major. Students with low math placements who intend to pursue a major that requires a high level math should know that they may have to use 1-2 general electives or Core electives (if available) to set up the prerequisites for the math that is required.
Science Courses: Some majors also vary in what science courses are required although students in every major must take a four credit lab science. Undecided students will be disadvantaged if they take a science class that does not fit their eventual major. The first science course should either be delayed until the major has been decided, or selected based on a combined assessment of appropriate placement and likely eventual major. Students who are in developmental classes should not take BIO or CHEM courses.
Effect of Developmental English and Math Placements: Many undecided students take non-credit developmental courses during their first and second college semesters. These students need to avoid taking courses that will be beyond their current level of proficiency in either math or reading/English. In general, students in developmental classes should avoid taking courses during their first semester that could exceed their current skill level.
A typical undecided student’s first or second semester 5-course schedule would probably be selected from the following elements:
- English by placement/sequence
- Math by placement
- Social Science (use only one)
- Communications 101
- Information Systems 134
- Fine Art or Humanities course (up to three)
- Physical Education
- Lab Science (probably 2nd semester, differs by major)
Generally Safe Course Choices for Undecided Freshmen:
- ART 105, 110, 140 (some sections restricted by major)
- CM 101, 111 or 115 (not for UNDEC interested in nursing)
- EC 201 or 202 (prerequisite Math 111 or 112+ math placement, and ENG 151)
- FAM 101
- FLM 108 (some sections restricted by major)
- GEO 112
- HIST 105 (co-requisite ENG 151 or higher)
- IS 134
- MATH 121 or 140
- MUS 102 or 201 (102 (Chorus) is a 2-credit course, take twice to fulfill Fine Arts req.)
- PSY 101
- PHIL 101, 104
- POSCI 102
- REL 116 (these courses don’t run very often)
- SOC 101, 102
- THEA 103 or 121
Freshman students should have a schedule that is within their “comfort zone.” They should avoid taking too many demanding courses such as lab sciences, mathematics, or courses with substantial reading assignments and papers. An ideal freshman schedule includes a blend of technical and liberal arts courses.
Undecided Interested in Nursing Guidelines
STUDENTS INTERESTED IN PURSUING ADMISSION TO THE NURSING PROGRAM MUST CONTACT NURSING ADVISOR KAREN MURPHY-KEDDELL AT 443-334-2906.
Students who are “undecided interested in nursing” (formerly called “nursing intent”) are always a challenge for advisors. Here are the principles to keep in mind:
- GPA is more important than credits earned.
- Within the first two semesters make sure these students take a math, a lab science, and an English course so that the Nursing Admissions Committee will have the ability to make a valid assessment in May. (Please remind student to formally apply to the nursing admissions committee in writing in March.)
- If and when it becomes clear that a student will probably not make it into the major then the advisor should be blunt and assertive about pushing other options. (Advisors can say: One “C” and you are probably not going to get in to the nursing major, two “C’s” and you are almost certain to be rejected.)
Undecided students who express an interest in nursing should know that they should get Bs or better in all science, math, and English courses, and maintain a 3.0 GPA overall, to be admitted to the major. These students should not take CM 101 since NURS 101 covers their communications requirement, but they can not take NURS 101 until they have been admitted into the major. However, they can take BIO 108/CHEM 108 as UNDEC students, and if they do not eventually succeed in becoming nursing majors that course could serve as their required lab science in many other majors. Students who do not become nursing majors often choose to major in Human Services, Psychology, Early Childhood Leadership, or Interdisciplinary Studies.