Amidst study abroad and internship applications, tests and papers, March is filled with deadlines. For sophomores, it carries even more as March 26 is the deadline for sophomores to declare their majors.
Kari Gottfried ʼ23 came to Wellesley thinking she would major in political science and minor in religion. During her first year, she took — and loved — multiple political science classes. Then she decided she wanted to be a minister.
“This summer I was looking at classes to take, and all the religion classes sounded really cool, and none of the poli sci classes sounded cool,” Gottfried said. A new thought occurred to her: “What if I didn’t major in political science and just majored in religion?”
She mulled it over throughout the summer and fall. When it came time to register for spring semester courses, the same thought arose. Political science classes did not look interesting anymore but those in the religion department did. That sealed the deal; Gottfried decided to be a religion major.
Jacqueline Galison ʼ23 planned to major in international relations during her first semester, but after taking one look at the course load, she decided it was “absolutely” not what she wanted to study.
Instead, she took musical theater with English Professor Larry Rosenwald. After enjoying the class and doing well on the assignments, she asked if he thought it would be a viable major for her.
“He said someone of my abilities would be absolutely welcome in the department,” Galison said. “Ever since, I’ve been taking [English] courses.”
Kaitlyn Wang ʼ23 came to Wellesley expecting to double major in English and biology. Her first semester, she took a first-year seminar called Creating Memory. Psychology Professor Margaret Keane gave a guest lecture about the neuroscience of memory.
Wang then took a neuroscience course her sophomore fall, and shortly after, decided to pursue it as a major. She likes how it “connects with so many different parts” of the human experience, “like memory, language, mental illness, identity consciousness,” as well as cellular and molecular topics.
As for her initial plan, Wang said, “Neuroscience kind of incorporated both of those interests.”
The major declaration form was a little confusing, said Gottfried, but she eventually figured it out. It asks students to list courses they have taken for each distribution requirement and select which courses they plan to take to fulfill their major.
“It was nice to have that reflection,” Gottfried said.
Galison put off officially declaring her major until right before the spring semester began, as she worried that she would get turned down by a potential advisor. When she worked up the nerve to ask, however, she got a “yes, absolutely,” and filled out the form. According to Galison, the hardest part of declaring a major is coming up with a plan for the rest of one’s time at Wellesley.
“Finding your passion, I think, is the easiest part,” Galison said, noting that there was a lot of uncertainty regarding choosing the classes one could get into.
Wang was an avid reader in high school. At Wellesley, she discovered that women’s & gender studies “examines some of the social issues” that she most enjoyed reading about. “English will always be my first love,” Wang said, but she has decided to major in neuroscience and minor in women’s & gender studies.
Gottfried spoke highly of the small religion department. Her major advisor is going on sabbatical next year, but she is not worried about filling the spot.
“I have so many professors that I know have my back and are willing to talk with me,” Gottfried said.
Practicality was on Galison’s mind as she made her decision. Initially, she worried she would not get a job if she majored in English due to the stereotypes of the major.
“Pursuing dreams isn’t impractical,” she said, adding that Professor Rosenwald and others assured her. “It’s a matter of finding the practicality within something I’ve always aspired to do.”
Passion also led her to Italian studies, which she is planning to declare as a minor as soon as she figures out her plan for the next two years.
“It’s always so exciting when a professor is so encouraging and gets you so devoted to the course load that you want to make memes in your spare time,” Galison said.
Wang declared her major in January. For other students who are still deciding, she recommends reaching out to fellow students and professors in potential major departments. Or those people might reach out to you first. Last spring, the student next to her in yoga class was “very enthusiastic about neuro.” That encouragement stuck with her, and it was part of why she decided to try a neuroscience course. The enthusiastic yoga classmate ended up being a supplemental instruction leader.
“Picking a major is something that was scary to me for a long while,” said Galison. “I didn’t need to feel anxiety about it.”
Galison encourages students to keep taking classes in new areas that look interesting. “I’m a little under halfway through my time at Wellesley, and I’m still exploring things I love,” she said.
Gottfried offered similar advice.
“Don’t feel pressured to major in something you want because you think will look good,” she said.
She’s taking six religion courses this year just because she wants to.
“I’m gonna more or less double major in religion,” she said.
Rather than studying what you think you have to study “take classes that spark joy.” Gottfried’s experience came full-circle when she declared her major on Oct. 31, 2020.
“I was looking back at my photos from two years ago, from Oct. 31, 2018, and there’s a photo of me hitting the submit button on my Wellesley ED I application,” she said.