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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Career center staff weigh in on sophomore major declaration deadline

The beginning of March marked the deadline for Arts and Sciences sophomores to declare a major.

Major Declaration Deadline Graphic
Graphic by Bex Povill

By March 1, sophomores in the School of Arts and Sciences were required to declare a primary major. This is a hard deadline for all second-year students, with class registration placed on hold upon failure to declare.

While many have already decided on a major, others approached the deadline undeclared. Tufts allows three semesters of open exploration before asking students to pick a path.

Karen Dankers, associate director of the Tufts Career Center, spoke about what components students take into account during the process of choosing a major.

“Some factors are their interests, of course, like what classes they’ve taken so far,” Dankers said. “Which ones have been interesting? We talk about why. Which ones have they not liked? We talk about why.”

In addition to their interests, Dankers said that students also factor in their skills, their personal values, the opinions of their family and their career aspirations. Dankers noted that citizenship can also be a factor. International students pursuing degrees in STEM fields are generally more likely to find Curricular Practical Training authorization than those majoring in the humanities. 

“There are students that I’ve met with, where it does seem like a privilege to be able to major in just anything they’re interested in,” Dankers said. “I think I have had individual conversations with students who maybe are from a lower socioeconomic status who feel pressure, individually and maybe from family, to major in something that seems more quote-unquote ‘employable’.”

Dankers clarified that employability is not dependent on picking a specific major. Many employers are open to a wide range of majors, and also take extracurriculars and work experience into account. At the career center, Dankers ensures that students understand career trajectories from the skills they develop in their chosen field of study.

“Say [a student] wants to major in history, because it’s a huge personal interest, but they think they might want to pursue a business career path in something like consulting,” Dankers said. “We’ll talk about options in terms of experiences, internships, clubs, leadership opportunities — different things they can do and apply for to kind of build of their resume and experience in addition to that major.

Tufts’ long exploration period before the declaration deadline encourages students to explore new passions. Senior Academic Advisor Ericka Miranda explained that the March 1 deadline allows for students to gain experience in a variety of fields before choosing a single area of study to focus on.

“Many of the academic disciplines that comprise A&S are subject areas that most students may not have any familiarity with from their high school studies, and we want to encourage students to familiarize themselves with a wide range of disciplines before deciding on a primary major,” Miranda wrote in an email to the Daily.

Miranda noted that sophomore year is a good deadline for major declaration because sophomores may want to start planning for internships, research opportunities, study abroad and their path to graduation.

“By [their] fourth semester of study, most students have taken introductory coursework in several disciplines and have a much better sense of what they want to pursue,” Miranda wrote. “In order to ensure that students receive appropriate advising as they begin to progress into some of the upper-level major requirements, we want them to have guidance from a faculty advisor who is more familiar with the nuances of the curriculum and can give tailored advice on how to sequence those courses.”

These factors may encourage some students to declare well before March 1. The earlier a student declares, the earlier they can start planning the opportunities around a specific major.

“Most A&S students declare during their sophomore year, especially during the fall semester and early in the spring semester,” Miranda wrote. “However, we do see some students who are ready to declare by the end of their first year here at Tufts.”

Sophomore Lev Barnett declared his computer science major in the week leading up to the March 1 deadline. Barnett said he considered biology, psychology and cognitive and brain science before deciding on computer science.

“I’m just a lot more excited to do [CS projects] than I am to write a discussion post for psychology or study for a test,” Barnett said. “It’s like, I’ll have a bunch of work to do for different classes, but then CS is the one where I just keep doing it until I get it done. And I don’t want to do anything else until I finish that.”

Barnett said that most other sophomores he knows decided on a major well before March 1. However, he did not feel particularly stressed about the major declaration deadline.

“I tried to focus on the present and just trust that things would work out,” Barnett said. “I feel like a lot of my family members that I know have gone through college [with one major] and then what they do now is just completely different [than their major].”

If he was not required to declare a major by the deadline, Barnett said he may have waited even longer to declare.

“I probably would have rolled along, honestly, if I didn’t have to make the decision right now. And I don’t know where I’d end up with it, to be honest,” Bartnett said.