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Making Major Decisions

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Yale-NUS’s Inaugural Class Declares Majors

story Li Ting Chan

Yale-NUS major offerings.
Yale-NUS major offerings. (Rachel Johanna Lim)

Having spent most of their past two years taking Common Curriculum courses, the pioneer class at Yale-NUS College has finally declared their majors. While this marks a milestone for sophomores, it is only the first of many in their academic careers.

Unlike other Singaporean universities, Yale-NUS requires students to declare their major only during their sophomore year. The first two years are spent on building foundations in the liberal arts and sciences, according to the Yale-NUS admissions website.

Moving forward, professor Nomi Lazar, Head of Studies for Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE), said that it would be wise for sophomores to “meet with the Head of Study and plot out a course path as soon as possible.” According to Ms. Lazar, this will give students a sense of which requirements they have already met and still need to meet. This helps students “make good decisions in terms of course distribution across [their] four remaining semesters,” she said.

Sophomores can also expect to be assigned new major advisors, according to Vice-Rector Eduardo Lage-Otero in an email sent to Saga College students on March 9. He said that a student’s existing faculty advisor will no longer serve as the official advisor, unless the faculty advisor also happened to be in the faculty for the student’s major.

Although the deadline for declaring majors has passed, students may still change their majors. “We don’t want it to be a rigid structure,” Rajeev Patke, Director of the Humanities Division, explained. However, changing majors will be “like a dwindling cone of possibilities,” he said, as different majors will have different prerequisites and students may not have enough time to fulfill them.

For many of the students interviewed, choosing majors involved many considerations. “I was having a hard time choosing majors because they all seem so interesting,” said Kevin Low ’17. Eventually, he chose Psychology because its study “covered most of his interests.”

For Koh Wei Jie ’17, considering the type of capstone project he preferred to work on was a decisive factor. “I realized that I would be more interested in an anthropology capstone than doing a long essay in philosophy over one year,” he said.

Some students interviewed chose their majors after taking certain classes. Valerie Pang ’17 had planned to major in Global Affairs, but changed her mind after taking the Introduction to Environmental Studies elective last semester. “The most difficult part about deciding to major in Environmental Studies was convincing myself that deviating from my original path was alright,” she said.

Hoa Nguyen ’17 found talking to her professors and learning about plans for future courses and faculty hiring through major advising sessions helpful. Catherine Sanger, Vice-Rector of Cendana College, said that efforts to publicize information, organize sophomore advising nights for each college, and arrange major-specific advising sessions were meant to alleviate students’ stress stemming from perceived ambiguity and lack of experience in making such decisions.

Dean’s Fellows (DFs) also played an important role in advising students, especially because they had undergone such a process before. “I changed my major twice when I was at the National University of Singapore and didn’t settle on a major until late in semester two of my junior year, so I can definitely empathize,” DF Cher Yumei said. Together with DF Tse Hao Guang, she organized an informal advising session for students in their DF groups. Ms. Sanger added that in the future, one difference would be that “juniors and seniors will be able to share their own experiences.”

Many students interviewed ultimately expressed confidence in their chosen majors. Brian Huang ’17 said there are students concerned with how there are only two pure Mathematics professors at present. “Luckily I trust those two professors are doing their jobs pretty well so I’m confident in their ability to construct a pretty strong [Mathematics curriculum] in the future,” he said. Nguyen also said that it was a good sign that some faculty sought feedback from students when planning when to offer certain electives.

The window for declaring majors ended on March 13.

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