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Penn Admissions Blog

Undecided, Surprisingly Uncomplicated
Julia | July 6, 2017

For many, one of the most daunting sections of the Common App is deciding how to fill in that oh-so-overwhelming box that asks for your “intended major.” As an unsure seventeen year old, I applied to Penn undecided. Now it’s already time to pick classes for my second semester here, and I’ve yet to declare a major.

Although sometimes it may feel like you need to know your life track the second you step onto your college campus, especially when at a school like Penn with peers in pre-professional schools, I can tell you first hand that’s not the case. While at times it can be a bit overwhelming and somewhat stressful (example: right now as I try to create my next semester schedule), it’s truly exciting more than anything else.

In high school, I was told what classes to take each year, when I would take them, and who would be teaching me. As a freshman in the College, I have access to over 2,000 courses and a surplus of incredible professors to choose from. Nobody is telling me what to do anymore. It’s all up to me.

So what does that mean exactly? I spent a week of my summer going into freshman fall simply reading through course descriptions. There were so many options that excited me, I had no idea how I would fit them all into my four years here.

Here’s what I ended up taking this semester:

  1. Mural Arts:  An interdisciplinary class between Urban Studies, Fine Arts, and Community Service. I get to explore my passion for art, travel around the city, visit artists’ studios, paint a mural in West Philadelphia, and learn about the city’s various communities (More to come on this class in the future!)
  2. Microeconomics: My first big lecture class (about 200 students) which surprisingly doesn’t feel much different from a 25 person lecture class. The incredible number of TAs available to help at all hours of the day is also a pretty nice benefit of a big class.
  3. Chinese: I took Chinese my sophomore year in high school and decided to pick it up again once I got to college. Fortunately, my engineering roommate finds it both hysterical and fascinating rather than annoying when my classmates come over to practice before tests together.
  4. English (Freshman Seminar): In both the fall and spring semesters, Penn offers a long list of “Freshmen Seminars.” These classes are offered in a variety of subjects and consist of solely freshman, normally capped at around 14 students, so it’s a great way to meet people. My class is called “Contact and Conflicts: Literature of Israel and Palestine” and I absolutely love it.

As you may have noticed, my four classes cover a pretty wide range of interests. But that’s okay. In fact, it’s great. This past semester has re-taught me how to truly enjoy learning for the sake of learning.

While I see the beauty in knowing your major right now and beginning to pick classes that will go towards your requirements, there’s also something special in not knowing just yet.

Next semester, I may take Introduction to Psychology. Maybe I’ll enroll in a marketing course in Wharton (yes, even as a Freshman in the College, I can do that.) An Architecture Design class sounds pretty cool too. I may take Chinese again, or I may work on my French. Maybe I’ll even do both. I just don’t know yet. And that’s just fine. Luckily, I have time.

About the author

As a senior, I found the college process to be overwhelming, exciting, and, above all, confusing. Now, as a current student in the College of Arts and Sciences, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. While I loved my childhood in New York suburbia, there’s something special about the urban energy of Philadelphia. At Penn, I’m part of the design department for the Daily Pennsylvanian, a social media editor for 34th Street, Penn’s arts and culture magazine, a member of the Spring Fling planning committee, and an Upstander Initiative mentor. While I’m passionate about art and journalism, I’m also a huge foodie. If on campus, I would highly suggest the banana whips with chocolate chips at HipCityVeg. I love traditions, exploring (whether that be on campus or off), and meeting new people— all of which makes Penn the perfect fit for me.

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