Every year on the Thursday of the second week of March, when the birds are finally migrating back to warming temperatures, stress runs high as sophomore students make one of the biggest decisions of their college careers – declaring a major. On March 10, the sophomore class of 2024 celebrated the declaration of their majors and concentrations for the first fully in-person celebration since 2020. It’s evident that there are many factors that go into declaring a major. With the onset of the pandemic, plans and aspirations had to be drastically changed, some for the better and some for the worse. Other students have known what their major will be for years.
The College’s liberal arts curriculum allows students to combine, switch, mix, and match majors and concentrations. In an email to the Messenger, Jose Gonzalez Ramirez ’24 described his process for deciding on a major. He declared a chemistry major and is in the process of creating his own major in theology, Latin/race studies, and chemistry through the Center for Integrative Studies. Gonzalez went through “many phases” until he reached an area of study that allowed him to do research while focusing on a variety of subjects. He credits his advisors, Professors Rodrigo Sanchez Gonzalez and Brian Greening. They have “supported me through so much” and were “always there to bring my confidence back up,” Gonzalez said.
St. Olaf’s STEM programs provide majors that many students choose, including biology and chemistry as some of the most popular. Of all the majors declared for the class of 2021, about 10.1% of them were biology, followed by economics at 8.9%, and then psychology with 7.4%. For the class of 2019, for example, the statistics are similar. The top three majors were again, biology, economics, and mathematics. Similarly, both classes had about 30-35% of seniors graduating with a double major, of which subjects varied. When factoring in the effects of the pandemic, it’s clear that plans and interests had the possibility to change–significantly.
In a world facing constant moments of crisis and injustice, finding a major or concentration that is active and rewarding is important. Maheen Asim ’24 wrote in an email interview that there were “several reasons” why she chose to focus on computer science with a management studies concentration. “The most important one among them”, she wrote, “is because I want to be a part of the movement to improve the number of women working in tech.” When considering the future, she’s glad to report how the employment rate for computer science majors has been at its “peak.”
Whether it’s biology, economics, or English, the options are endless. When it comes to advice for future classes, most sophomores agree that keeping your options open is key. A big reason why they chose St. Olaf was for its liberal arts program, which offers a range of different courses.
Other sophomores also wrote that not putting too much pressure on yourself is important. They recommend reaching out to previous or current professors whose classes interested you in order to form meaningful connections.