story | Neo Huiyuan, Arts Editor and Pham Le Vi, News Editor

photo | Rachel Juay

“I’ve just declared my major,” Svetlana Kekutiia ’19 announced to me as she entered the suite. It would be nothing unusual—the Class of 2019 has been declaring their major this past week—except that it was Monday, March 20, and the deadline for major declaration exercise was three days ago.

“I forgot,” she said. “Even though I was pretty much set, it was an important decision and I didn’t want to rush it.”  

By the time this article is out, hopefully all members of the Class of 2019 would have declared their major. While some sophomores have no trouble deciding and declared their major immediately after the link was open, others had more difficulty.

A few sophomores entered college undecided about their major and were open to multiple options. Maline Bungum ’19 indicated that she was undecided about her major and stayed undecided throughout her freshman year. At the start of the second year, she had narrowed her choices down to Literature, History, Urban Studies and Anthropology, but still remained unsure.  

On the other hand, there were also sophomores who started college with specific interests in mind, but found themselves later torn between their originally intended major and new interests.  Vanessa Koh ’19 was deciding between Literature and Physics. “My background [in junior college] was always very much literature, English and writing,” she said. In Yale-NUS, however, Koh found herself leaning more and more towards Physics. She mentioned that, “I feel stressed and overwhelmed [taking Classical Mechanics] but at the end of the day, when I go to bed, I feel happy.” And she couldn’t say the same for Literature.  

Challenges

Ultimately, all sophomores had to come to a decision on their major by 5PM on March 17, 2017, and it has not been an easy process for most. Leading up to their decision, every sophomore is bound to meet with their own struggles against their potential major. Many were concerned about whether they had the aptitude to take up a major that they were interested in. Koh commented that “the most difficult part was the fact that I have a lot [less] preparation than a lot of people so mathematically, I am, [to put it] bluntly, unprepared.” She also constantly felt that she was “a literature or arts student trying to do physics.”

Similarly, Bosen Xia ’19, said that he had not done coding before taking Introduction to Computational Sciences. However, he agreed with what Wu Shuin Jian ’18 wrote in a Facebook post on the Yale-NUS College Students Page—“A major declaration is more of a statement of dedication than a statement of ability”.

Tips for deciding

On deciding, Koh said that she thought about things she liked to do in her free time or about things she would like to talk with friends over a meal. “And I realized the answer was actually very clear in front of me,” she said. Talking to her peers about her dilemmas also helped, as her friend provided her with a tip that provided her with clarity on her interests. “One of my close friends suggested [that] I scroll through my Facebook wall and whatever I see the most is probably the answer. So I went to my Facebook and I was like, oh dear lord, I was such a [physics] nerd,” she said. Thus, Koh eventually declared Physics as her major.

Bungum also had her own strategy. Keeping an open-mind, she decided to choose electives that she was interested in without thinking about which major they fell under. “And I saw that I was consistently choosing History courses and really enjoying them,” she said. This led Bungum to ultimately decide on History as her major. Bungum added, “It was a strange realization because before college, it had never occurred to me that a History major was a viable option—History had always been that subject that I found fascinating, but only as a side interest to ‘actual’ studies.”

Xia, who declared Mathematical, Computational and Statistical Sciences (MCS) as his major, had a slightly different take. “Don’t follow your passion but bring it with you,” he said. You don’t necessarily need to choose the field you are most interested in; you can choose your field and be passionate about it, he said.

The process leading up to major declaration could be one filled with frustrations and fears. Students may also find themselves facing resistance and doubts from themselves and others. However, it is ultimately a rite of passage to finally decide on a major and see one’s efforts and explorations crystallize into a clear commitment for the remainder of one’s college years. Kekutiia had one last advice for the future freshmen—“Don’t forget to declare your major.”

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