A Senior's Perspective

Commentary: Exploratory Program puts student interest first

Headshot of Caroline Anson '20

Caroline Anson, Exploratory Program Alumna and Intern '19-'20 / Photo by Lucas Cavanagh '23, The Ithacan

As a high school student, I thought everyone around me knew exactly what they were doing. To me, the idea of deciding what to do seemingly for the rest of my life was daunting and confusing. I will be honest, I was overwhelmed. However, it is still largely expected of you to have made that massive life decision at 17 or 18 years old. How does that make any sense?

For context, roughly a third of college students at four-year institutions change their bachelor's degree program. This does not include students who have yet to declare their major—those students who are “undecided.” At Ithaca College, students who have yet to decide their major make up approximately 20 percent of the incoming class. This is a large portion of a class that has not yet "found" the major that is right for them. 

All I knew when looking over vast lists of majors, minors, concentrations, and additional areas of study was that I did not know which one was right for me. There were hundreds of options. It was not that I was uninterested. It was that there were too many to choose from. 

I had been visiting schools that had a lot of programs. I was searching for a level of flexibility so that if I needed to hop from one program to the other, I would be able to. At other colleges, I was told I would have to figure it out on my own—that I would not be able to study abroad, and potentially, I would have to stay an extra year. When I stumbled upon Ithaca College's Exploratory Program, it seemed almost too good to be true. 

The Exploratory Program is Ithaca College’s version of “undecided” except that it recognizes that you are exploring; you are on a journey to figure out the best path for you. It does not rush the milestone decision of declaring your major—instead, it provides up to sixty credits or two years of time to figure it out. The program offers additional resources, great faculty and peer support systems, and activities all designed to help you narrow down the choice to find what's right for you. 

As a graduating college senior, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my educational path. I speak so highly of this program because it has entirely shaped my college experience. Through guiding my first year experience, allowing me opportunities through volunteer positions and internship opportunities and for understanding that I was here to figure out what my passions really were, the Exploratory Program was a monumental aspect of my experience as a student at Ithaca College.

As my time with the program ends, I am excited to see it continue to grow under the leadership of Maria DiFrancesco. It will continue to be a wonderful academic home to those who need it. 

I hope that even if you do not ultimately interact directly with the program, you take its core value with you: There is so much out there waiting for you to explore.

This is excerpted from an editorial published in The Ithacan on February 5, 2020. View the original.