Undecided majors falter students' graduation goals

Having had to take an extra semester, one can only advise new students to plan ahead and see a counselor more than a few times each semester, with a clear goal in mind. Many students start their college journey by taking general education classes with an “undecided” major, while others come with a major in mind and take classes to support that concentration. For international students, this can be difficult, as there are strict immigration rules that they need to follow prior to enrollment.

“F1 status students are required to choose a major prior to being admitted to [Santa Monica College]. That major appears on their “SEVIS I-20” admission document,” said Denise Kinsella, associate dean of international education at SMC.

Entering college without a clear major can lead students to enroll in unnecessary classes, and possibly end up staying longer at the school than expected or necessary.

This was the case with Gabriella Lopez, a sophomore student at SMC. “I thought I wanted to major in fashion, but after taking my English 1 class, I was interested in journalism, and eventually in communications.”

To get an Associate degree from SMC, one must complete a minimum of 60 units. This means that a student must attend SMC for approximately five semesters--assuming they’re full time students. These do not including summer and winter sessions either. As a result, SMC hosts a great many students at who have been here for three years or more. One cannot help but wonder why anyone would want to stay in school longer than necessary.

Many students become noticeably comfortable at SMC as semesters pass by. SMC becomes a part of their daily routine, and one simply does not want to give up the comfort. Also, this is more common among U.S. residents than international students. The fact that they must pay almost ten times more is probably a major reason why international students are not too happy to “waste time” at SMC.

“It does sometimes happen that F1-students change their major after arriving at SMC,” said Kinsella. “I do not have statistics on the frequency.”

It is definitely safe to say that students with a major in mind tend to leave SMC in a much more timely manner than those who are still undecided. It makes sense that if there’s a clear plan, one is likely to stick to it and delineate his or her priorities accordingly. This is also where the counselors step in.

Counselors are available to help students keep track of their education. It is a service and more students should utilize it by updating their counselors on what they have accomplished, and where they wish to go.

The student’s stated goal, whether it is an Associate degree, a transfer, or a certificate, will determine the classes he or she will need to take at SMC. Since different colleges and universities have different requirements, students always have to plan a step ahead to succeed.

Of course, there will always be things to delay graduation. Some of the factors for such a delay might be math and English assessment tests, course repeats, or that deluge of unforeseen circumstances where a student must withdraw from all of his or her classes.