So you’ve been accepted into the school of your dreams, congratulations! You’ve worked hard to be here, so enjoy the moment--for a little while! Now you have to make a tough decision--what to study while you’re at school? While it might not have sounded like a big deal a couple of years ago, what you decide on commitment day will affect your course load for the next couple of years, so you don’t want to make this decision lightly.
We’ve put this list together of tips and tricks for you to follow in order to help you choose the best major for your situation. There’s a lot to consider, but don’t forget to trust your instincts and be confident that you’ve made the right decision!
Clarify Your Interests
It’s always helpful to pinpoint what you genuinely like
There are some people who’ve always known they want to be doctors, lawyers, or teachers, and that’s great for them! But if you don’t have a similarly intense calling to a certain field, that’s more than okay. Most people have a lot of things they like, but would not necessarily want to do them for the rest of their lives. (That’s why we have hobbies!) So if you’re a little undecided about finally declaring a major not to worry because that’s completely normal.
In order to pinpoint some possible majors for you there are a couple of things you can do. Try to create a list of 10 things that really pique your interests. This is helpful for a few reasons, one being that you may start to see places where your interests overlap. A lot of people like to write, but if you’re also interested in technical subjects such as science or medicine, you could develop that into a specialized career technical writing. Don’t hold back either, this is your chance to really examine what you’d like to study in depth, and writing it down will help organize your thoughts immensely.
Another little test you can do to see what subjects you should consider studying is to list out your strengths and weaknesses. This might be a little difficult--no one wants to see their weaknesses on paper and staring back at them--but be honest. If you’ve been struggling with math, a major that requires the use of a lot of calculations might not be in your best interests. You could always test how you would do by taking an elective in a science or math subject, and then make that determination. Say for instance if history is one of your strengths, perhaps you could expand on this interest by doing a political science or philosophy major? This is another useful tool to weed out what will possibly work and what won’t.
Decide Your Career Goals
What do you honestly want out of your career?
This might seem a little far off at this point in time, afterall, you need to decide your major first! But even just a general idea of what career you’d like to be in after graduation can be helpful. Say you’re interested in one day becoming a graphic designer, what sort of classes would you need to take in order to attain that goal? You’d probably want to gravitate towards art and design classes, but you’ll need to make sure you have the technical skill set to work with all the latest software in computer designing. If your school doesn’t have a specific degree for something like graphic design, you could still major in something technical and apply those skills to a more art focused career.
It’s also important to research and understand what the typical salaries are for your ideal profession. You can find the earning potential of certain majors, and see if that helps you come to a more focused decision. Higher salaries tend to come from more technical majors such as science and engineering, but if those aren’t a part of your interests, liberal arts degrees in economics or political science can also lead to high earning potentials. However, keep in mind that depending on the career you’re interested in, a high salary might mean long days and giving up social and family time. If you’re not particularly interested in doing that, then keep in mind another degree might not support a higher salary.
Does the Subject Matter Interest You?
There are a lot of classes to take for a major, make sure it holds your interest!
Of course we all wish we could take classes that really interest us for our entire time in college. Unfortunately, there will be classes in your major that are just not as interesting, or are more difficult for you. Don’t be deterred by intense classes, or if a couple are a little outside of your comfort zone. These are some of the classes where you’ll learn the most! They are also a perfect opportunity to expand your horizons and gain new skills. However, take a look at what the courses are in the major you’re considering and decide if you could see yourself staying interested in them for the remainder of your time at school.
Everyone tends to do better in courses that they’re interested in, and if the bulk of the courses are up your alley, then the major you’re contemplating might be a good choice. If you’re interested in a Spanish major for example, and you just love the idea of becoming an expert in grammar and conversation--keep in mind there could also be courses that are more Spanish literature focused, and would entail a lot of reading and comprehension. If that still sounds like a great way to achieve your goal of becoming a Spanish interpreter then go for that major!
Get Some Advice
Talk to friends, family, professionals, and do some research!
Your first year in college you probably took a bunch of different classes to try and hone in on what you think you’d like to major in. Now that it’s time to commit, it’s a wise idea to let your professional and personal circles know what your intentions might be. Of course it’s best to start with your college advisor, as they have experience guiding students just like yourself. Even if what you’re interested in is outside their area of expertise, they can definitely point you in the direction of professors that you should speak with.
That moves us onto the next group of advice givers-- professors in the department of your potential major. They can answer any questions you have, and you can also get a feel for whether or not you would enjoy taking their classes. If you’re not impressed with the professors’ personalities in this type of interview, then chances are you’re not going to enjoy their classes as much. They can also give you honest answers on whether or not this particular major would be suited to your career goals as well.
Of course you’ll also want to let your parents know what major you’re thinking about declaring, and ideally they’ll be on board with it. If they’re less than enthused about your choice, don’t panic, you can still convince them! A great way to win them over to your side is to inform them that for many jobs, the specific degree subject doesn’t matter as much as if you’re qualified for a position. Many job opportunities list either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science for a requirement and leave the specifics open. You will still be plenty employable with college degree period, and if it’s in a subject you enjoy, it will make college all the more fun!
Don’t forget to talk to your friends as well! They can give you objective advice and since they already know your interests and study habits, they can help you decide if your potential major would be right for you. As a bonus, they may also know some people in that department who can give you the low down on professors and workload as well!
What About Changing a Major?
Always an option, just not always the best
Once you commit to your major, there is always the option to change it. However, it’s a good idea to think about this one before abruptly changing your major. If you’re doing poorly in the major you’ve chosen, make sure to reach out for help and speak with your advisor and professors to see if this major just isn’t for you. Double check that your desire to switch subjects isn’t stemming from the fact that you just don’t care for a couple of classes, professors, or teaching assistants. If it’s a difficult class, try to get through it, and understand that it will be helpful in the long run!
If you do decide to change, be aware that you may need to adjust your credits, which could affect your graduation date. Your advisor can help you with reorganizing your classes though.
What About Double Majors and Minors?
These let you specialize in more subjects!
If you’re still having a hard time narrowing down a major, don’t forget you can double major, or even pick up a minor in a related or unrelated subject. A lot of students decide to double major in subjects that are closely related, such as political science and economics, as a lot of the classes they take fall under both of these disciplines. However, don’t let that limit you! You can double major in disparate subject matters such as computer science and literature--because you love reading and writing, but also enjoy coding! It’s important to know that this will increase your workload, and can be very time consuming. This is why students oftentimes decide to minor in another subject instead. The credit requirements for a minor are smaller than that of a major, but you still get to specialize in more than one subject.
Be open to the possibilities of double majoring or adding a minor, as this can sometimes make your decision to commit to a specific major just a little easier.
Commiting to a major can be a little nerve-wracking, but if you follow these suggestions, you can choose yours with confidence! As long as you choose something that interests you, you’re going to be fine in the long run. What tips do you have for choosing a major? Let us know in the comments.