Download Poster and Paper (855 KB)


Ask any incoming first-year student what they’re dreading the most about college, and there’s a good chance it’s the never-ending questions of “What will you be majoring in?” or “What do you plan to pursue in college?” How could simple questions such as these provoke so much anxiety among students? But then again, how can people even begin to expect high-school graduates to have the answer to these questions at just eighteen years old? This study will examine what it means to be an undecided major at Marquette University. More specifically, are undecided students more likely to be scrutinized by their peers? Are they less likely to achieve academic success and, therefore, more likely to face a significant increase in depression or anxiety? To find the answer to these questions, I conducted a mixed-methods qualitative approach and collected data from observational fieldwork, interviews, scholarly sources, and a survey. Through my rhetorical analysis of Marquette University’s “Undecided” webpage, I discovered that Marquette welcomes incoming students without a declared major with open arms, stating that “undecided” is Marquette’s most popular major. However, the results from my student survey and interviews indicated otherwise. Twenty out of the 30 students surveyed indicated that they have experienced a significant increase in depression or anxiety due to their undecidedness. When asked about their experience with Marquette University’s Career Services Center, 17 students out of 30 indicated they had little knowledge about it, suggesting that Marquette’s resources for students are not being advertised correctly. My proposals for change include modifying Marquette University’s first-year student orientation with an emphasis on introducing the Career Services Center and other resources for students who are undecided.

Publication Date

Spring 2017


undecided, depression, anxiety, academics, major, first-year, stress, higher education, undergraduate, university, peer pressure

The Cool Kids Are Doing It: The Pressure to Pick a Major at Marquette University