Allison Stephens is an academic adviser. The Academic Advising Office is located in the Ramstad Commons.

By the end of September, new students may feel the pressure to pick a major. Academic adviser Allison Stephens, however, said not knowing your major right away is understandable.

“We love undecided students,” Stephens said.

Once an official college student, many begin hearing the question ‘what’s your major’ from new professors, classmates and even family members. With this question circulating throughout the everyday lives of students, it can be understandable for pressure to choose an academic home to develop.

Some students can be eager to cling on to a career they are most familiar with.

“We come to college thinking that there are teachers and doctors and lawyers and firemen in this world, and that’s like our small narrow frame of what’s possible,” Stephens said.

Students do not have to declare a major until junior year, so it can be really beneficial to spend those first two years investing in interests and exploring rather than committing to a certain path.

Some may not realize the path they chose their first semester at PLU is not for them until their junior year, when it might be too late to change majors.  “It’s fun to see students give themselves permission [to explore and think about other majors],” Stephens said.

It can sometimes be the careers and classes students never expect to enjoy that will ultimately be their vocation. “It’s like dating. Be single for a while between majors … get to know yourself a little bit first,” said Stephens.

Academic advisers can answer any questions about registration, schedules or adding and dropping classes, which Stephens calls the “mechanics.”

Stephens said she suggests students research careers of interest, come up with questions to ask and become educated with the different occupations before going to their advising appointments.

“If you’re walking away with just mechanics, you’re not taking advantage of that full relationship,” Stephens said.

With thoughts about majors and balancing classes, personal lives and self-care, it can be overwhelming at times. Making sure to address hard times rather than giving up can be vital to academic success in the four years of college most students have at PLU.

“We have had students who ended up failing a class just because they didn’t come and talk to an adviser and ask ‘do I have options?’” Stephens said.

Struggles and concerns can build up quickly and develop into what Stephens describes as a “spiral.” Whenever students feel overwhelmed or find themselves in a downward “spiral,” Stephens encourages them to always talk to their adviser.

“They might not be able to fix every problem, but they are going to know your options that could alleviate some stress, some weight on your shoulders,” she said.

If advisers know a student’s interests, academic history or feelings about classes, they can be better equipped to help later on if problems should arise. It could also set up an environment where students would be able to come to their adviser for any issues.

“I just hope they walk away comfortable with a professional [on campus],” Stephens said.

By making connections with faculty members on campus and also their advisers, students have two types of connections during their educational career. “That’s just so good to have, and we know it leads to students being more successful,” Stephens said. ◼︎

Share your thoughts