Exploratory Defined

An undergraduate student at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) may declare as Exploratory at new student orientation or at any time prior to graduation.  However, exploratory is not a degree granting program – a student must declare a major, and complete the requirements for that academic program, in order to earn a degree from the University.

First-year new from high school students declared as exploratory make up the second largest “major” at UNI.  Although there is not a university policy requiring students to declare a major at a certain time, it is important to work with an academic advisor early and often as an exploratory student – especially if a student’s goal is for a four-year graduation.   Whereas many academic majors at UNI can be completed in four (4) to five (5) semesters, it is important to note that there are certain majors that will require longer course sequencing requirements to complete.

Academic Advising for Exploratory Students

Exploratory students are assigned to an academic advisor out of the Office of Academic Advising.  Students typically choose to be exploratory for individual reasons; however, among the reasons a student will follow this program include:

  • Students have multiple academic interests and are not ready to commit to one major
  • Not comfortable making such a large decision without support/assistance from an academic advisor or faculty member
  • Don't have an understanding of the multiple career paths that can come from one specific major (i.e. a history major doesn't need to be a historian…)
  • Decision paralysis - too many choices and need assistance learning how to explore options and make an informed decision

An exploratory student is encouraged to be proactive, engaged, and to collaborate with their academic advisor to develop personalized goals and expectations based upon the individual’s interests, strengths and skills.  The academic advisor can be a guide for the exploratory student to establish a better understanding of their unique academic and career goals and requirements – and connecting to possibilities in majors and careers.

Michele Peck Quote on Advising for Exploratory Majors

Benefits for Exploratory Students Working with an Academic Advisor

Every student comes to the exploratory student program with a unique set of ideas, goals, and challenges.  The academic advisors in the Office of Academic Advising will facilitate each student, with a supportive community and network, through a structured program that includes:

  • Individual Attention
  • Meaningful Engagement
  • Personalized Experience

The Office of Academic Advising works with exploratory students to complete individual self-reflection, connect to accurate information, and make referrals to academic departments, faculty, and staff.  The exploratory student is encouraged to maintain regular engagement with their academic advisor who will guide them to:

  • Discover and articulate their strengths, skills and abilities through conversation, reflection, and assessment
  • Understand how to access and use the resources available to explore major and career options
  • Participate in hands-on experiences (from student organizations, on campus jobs, job shadowing or volunteering) to compare and contrast curricular and career option and potential work environments
  • Make informed decisions about their major based on academic or career interests 
  • Learn about UNI majors through exploratory events and by connecting students to major/faculty advisors 

Students are not left to fend for themselves.  Academic advisors in the Office of Academic Advising can help them structure a process of connection, understanding, and decision-making.