Student Spotlights-Formerly Undeclared Students

Student: Jessica Manzo

Major: Leadership and Organizational Studies at Lewiston-Auburn

When Jessica was a senior in High School, she knew she would attend college but didn’t have any idea what she would study. She decided to enter USM as an undeclared student.

The first thing she did was to meet with her advisor. They discussed Jessica’s interests and she began taking classes based on those interests. Her advisor suggested HRD 110: Choices, Changes, and Careers, and Jessica enrolled in the course. She said that at the time she took the class she really didn’t know where it was going, but looking back on the experience she sees how it has helped her with decision-making regarding her career choices.

After she had accumulated about 30 credits, she and her advisor looked at all of her coursework and tracked her interest areas based on the courses she had chosen. Jessica was also beginning to feel outside pressure from family and friends to choose a major, so after looking over her interests and previous course choices, she decided that Media Studies would be a good major. She was relieved that she had declared a major.

Over time, Jessica found she was not feeling completely satisfied about her choice. She decided to put her family and friend’s input aside so she could be freed from any further pressure if she were to change her mind. She went back to exploring her options. She felt she had to figure out whom she was and what was best for her. She believes that students don’t have to take a class and try to figure out what job the class will lead to, but should take it and see what it’s like, and if it might lead to something further. This philosophy worked well for Jessica. She did take a certain number of required core curriculum classes, but also took other classes of interest that fell into her elective category.

After reviewing her coursework once again, Jessica had a conversation with her father about her situation. She says that for the first time she actually heard what he had to say about pursuing something related to Human Resources (he had said this many times before). She believes that it was because she had explored so many things on her own first (and with the help of her advisor), that she had the ability to really listen to her father’s suggestions. Based on that conversation, she took a risk and registered for a class in Leadership and Organizational Studies. It turned out that she really enjoyed it!

Jessica doesn’t identify one specific thing that led to her final decision to major in Leadership and Organizational Studies. Once she evaluated the whole process, she saw that she was able to reach her decision through a culmination of her course experiences and conversations with family, friends, faculty and her advisor.

Thoughts and Tips From Jessica

Choosing is a process; it comes from socialization, the people you live with, and all of your experiences. Everyone has options, it’s just up to you to decide on which one to choose, and timing has a lot to do with it. If I hadn’t had an advisor I wouldn’t have been able to see the whole picture. It’s all about making relationships and taking advantage of everything the University has to offer.

  1. You have to ask questions.
  2. Make sure you check all of your options.
  3. Make the relationship happen with your advisor
  4. Get involved; if I had to do it again, I would get more involved!
  5. Meeting people at orientation has led me to meeting all of the other people I’ve met here.
  6. Being undeclared is one of many options. Meeting your advisor helps you know that someone will help you with all of this.

STUDENT: Stephanie Potts

MAJOR: Political Science

Stephanie took about seven years off between High School and starting college. She had been working during that time and says that when she began college, she was more than ready! Her approach in the beginning was to take a couple of classes each semester in order to get her feet wet. Initially, she thought she would pursue Environmental Science studies, so she tried some introductory classes, but discovered it wasn’t the right field for her. As she continued taking classes, something unexpected happened. She found that even though she didn’t know exactly what she should study, she was delighted to discover she was gaining a greater understanding about important issues through conversations she was having with her USM peers. She began seeing that taking classes wasn’t just a means to an end (the degree), but what was going on within her class experiences was applicable to her life on several levels. Despite the fact that she had been under pressure from family and friends to choose a specific major of their liking, she pursued taking classes that she felt expanded her thinking.

Stephanie remembers that there was a period of time when she didn’t think it was okay to be Undeclared. That belief motivated her to become determined to find out what she was passionate about, and she used every opportunity to learn more about the fields she could study. She enrolled in HRD 110, and learned some skills to help her find her passion. Once she eliminated what she wasn’t interested in, she thought hard about what she really did like. She liked writing which prompted her to think about journalism. She also had an interest in government, so she registered for POS 101J: Introduction to American Government. She was fascinated by the government course and learned a lot! Stephanie continued pursuing both her interest in journalism and government by enrolling in a Media and Politics course, and discovered that journalism wasn't the avenue for her. Within this time period she happened to tell one of her professors that she loved to write but didn't want to move into the journalism field; he reassured her that if she loved to write, she would develop that skill in any major. This bit of news allowed her to go back to her original plan of taking courses she was interested in so she would find her true passion.

Because her advisor was supportive of Stephanie's needs to choose courses of interest and only take a class from her core curriculum occasionally, she believes that she was able to really find what she wanted. She followed her academic passion mostly because she had to understand why she wanted a particular major before she declared. Because Stephanie was focused on her educational experience rather than a job, she did a lot of research into several majors and enthusiastically chose Political Science.

Stephanie knew she was ready to declare her major when it felt right. She had questioned everything else she had tried, but once she declared Political Science, she didn't question it; she just knew it was right.

Thoughts and Tips From Stephanie
  1. Use being undeclared to your advantage; there are people who will gladly share their experiences with you to help you figure things out.
  2. Don't misinterpret not being interested in a subject because you don't understand the subject, check it out, you might be surprised!
  3. You have to be open-minded, pick up a newspaper, read, see what you're interested in, and find your passion.
  4. Know yourself; make the decision for yourself, no one else!
  5. It's about believing what you can do!

Student: Jen Baker

Major: Exercise Physiology

When Jen started at USM right after graduating from High School, she felt an enormous amount of pressure from her parents and friends to know what she should study. She told her parents that she was going to use her initial time in college to look for a major. Because she was the first one in her family to go to college, she couldn’t rely on any college experiences from her parents to guide her through the process. She felt totally alone and had no idea where to begin.

One of the first things Jen decided was that she would take the required core curriculum classes. She met with her advisor who helped her by setting her up with lots of opportunities to explore. The advisor suggested that time be spent in the career exploration process and also to look closely at her catalog to begin getting some direction.

Jen felt that everything she was doing was a waste of time because the classes she was taking weren’t ones that she really wanted. However, she did discover that by taking those classes, she began eliminating what she knew she didn’t want to study. She wasn’t very active in trying to find something because she stayed focused on doing well in the classes she was enrolled. Her grades were more important to her than a career. She says that because college was the first time she got to pick what she supposedly wanted, it was quite difficult. Working closely with her advisor and talking about what she was going through helped to sort things out, but it was also getting more involved on campus that ultimately made a difference for her. She realized that for her, being active and becoming involved on campus helped her make connections with others and that helped her to see what they were doing (studying). This was a great source of information gathering for Jen.

Jen took an Introduction to Sports Medicine course that eventually led her to declare a major in Exercise Physiology. She was not exactly what type of job she wants after graduation, but she has learned that it’s important to pay attention to her interests and do the best she can.

Thoughts and Tips From Jen
  1. Get guidance EARLY; ask your advisor to help you figure this out!
  2. Go out and look at your choices, look at what’s offered, and use career services or visit someone in a field you are interested in.
  3. Ask an advisor to help you set up any opportunities that will help you learn more about a major or field of study.
  4. Talk with alumni; find out what they did and what they're doing now.