As you approach the beginning of your college journey, there will be many decisions to make. You’ll need to choose a college, sort through your scholarship and financial aid options, and eventually declare a major so you can begin taking courses that will prepare you to launch your career.

But what if you have multiple interests and you don’t know exactly what you want to do for your career? Do you have to choose a major right away?

The answer is no – you shouldn’t feel pressured to choose a field of study before you’re ready. In fact, data has shown that there can be some distinct advantages to waiting to declare a major.

Mount Mary University’s Compass Year program was designed to help students like you not only find your major but find the major that will unlock your true potential and lead to the fulfilling career you were destined for. So, if you’re puzzling over how to choose a major, join us as we outline the benefits of exploring your options (while still staying on track to graduate on time!) with the Compass Year program.

Why wait to choose a major?

Many view college as an opportunity to explore their various skills and interests as they prepare for the transition from dedicated student to thriving professional. And while it’s not uncommon for students to start school with a solid idea of the subject they’d like to study, there can be a few drawbacks to limiting your options to one field so early on.

According to a study released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 30 percent of undergraduate students change their major within three years of initial enrollment. And about one in ten of those students changed their major more than once. Changing your major will almost always result in time wasted in pursuit of your degree, so it can be helpful to avoid setbacks like these.

“The Compass Year program gives you the time and space to explore your interests, skills and potential career options,” explains Beth Felch, Dean of Student Success at Mount Mary University. “People work 45+ years of their lives, so finding what you are passionate about and enjoy doing will lead to a better life overall.”

The Pew Research Center released a report concluding that 30 percent of American workers view their work as “just a job to get them by” rather than their desired career or even a stepping stone toward that career. Similarly, Forbesrecently shared findings from a study that revealed more than 80 percent of surveyed employees regularly fake happiness at work – and when they do, the report explains, productivity and overall workplace success suffer.

These are the kinds of outcomes Mount Mary sought to avoid when the Compass Year program was created in 2019. Read on to learn more about how this year-long program can help you find what you’re passionate about without setting you back.

What is the Compass Year program?

“Mount Mary offers a comprehensive, one-year program specifically designed to help undecided students find their major and stay on track to graduate on time,” Felch explains.

The Compass Year program was the first of its kind when it launched in 2019, with the goal of providing students with opportunities for intensive career exploration through specialized courses, strategic advising and personalized guidance.

The program provides students with the tools and resources they need to be able to step confidently into their futures. During their Compass Year, students will experience the following:

  • Classes introducing them to 30+ majors and corresponding career options
  • Guided self-assessment to identify their interests, strengths, values and skills
  • A sense of belonging through community-based learning, which provides support and structure throughout the discovery process
  • Hands-on experiences including dynamic internships, research projects and study abroad opportunities.


“We want students to choose a major that they are excited about and that is a good fit so they don’t waste time and money on courses they don’t need,” Felch says.


How does the Compass Year program work?

When Mount Mary students enroll in the Compass Year program, they’re embarking upon a year-long journey of self-exploration and professional development. They can do this confidently knowing they won’t be lengthening their education journey at all.

“We help undecided students strategically plan their schedules to take classes they are interested in that also count toward their degree, whatever they may choose to study,” Felch explains. “We make it possible for students to begin their college career being undecided and still stay on track to graduate.”

Felch explains that the process starts shortly before the first semester at Mount Mary. As a participant in the Compass Year, you are invited to campus the week before classes begin for a three-day experience called Jumpstart. During this time, you’ll create connections with other students, mentors, faculty and staff as you engage in activities designed to help you get to know yourself better. “We also have some fun exploring Milwaukee,” she adds.

Once the semester begins, students will study together in a cohort learning format, which means you’ll take your classes with the same group of peers, beginning with a core Compass Year course called Major and Career Exploration. Compass students will also take their English, math and Leadership for Social Justice courses together, fulfilling necessary core requirements in the MMU curriculum and ensuring they’ll stay on track for graduation.

“Students get to learn and grow together as they discover their interests, values and skills,” Felch shares. “This cohort-based model helps create a sense of belonging within the Compass Year program and provides students connections with the larger Mount Mary community early in their careers,” she adds.

There is a Major and Career Exploration II course available for Compass students in their second semester. “In this course, students visit companies to discover job possibilities, conduct informational interviews with professionals and observe workplace environments to further hone their major and career decisions,” Felch says.

By the end of your freshman year as a Compass student, you should feel equipped to make a confident decision about your major. In fact, after its inaugural semester, more than 62 percent of participating students declared a major. If you’re still undecided after your first year, you can continue to receive individualized support from a Mount Mary career counselor. 

Discover your passion at Mount Mary University

Mount Mary’s innovative Compass Year program can help you step confidently into your future by identifying your interests and skills, enrolling you in courses that help you discover your professional passions and providing you with hands-on experiences to help you narrow your options. And participating students also become eligible to receive a $1,000 scholarship upon admittance!

You’ll have the chance to take the time you need to explore your career options with the Compass Year program. “You can come to Mount Mary and be proud of being undecided,” Felch says. “We have the resources and support students need to discover their paths and pursue their dreams.”

Learn more by visiting the Compass Year program information page.