How to Choose a College Major

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Amy Gardner
Amy Gardner

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Do you feel stressed about beginning to choose your college major? If so, you’re not alone. Many students feel anxious about making a decision which could impact their future lives and careers. While there are a few lucky souls who know exactly what they want to do and seem to have their lives mapped out, lots of others are unsure.

The good news is that there is no pressure to make a decision right away! It’s very common for students to change their majors at some point in their college careers. Most schools do not even require you to declare a major until the spring of your sophomore year. In addition, you will usually have the option of declaring a double major or minoring in something else that interests you.

But the choice of a major does impact your employment opportunities after graduation. So if you’re feeling completely lost, here are some guidelines to help you navigate this decision.

1) Are you interested in a field which requires lots of classes?

Although you may not be required to declare a major right away, there are many fields of study in which you will need to declare a major early on to be sure that you can fit in all the required coursework. If you are contemplating a career in education, nursing, or engineering, you will probably need to begin your coursework early to finish it. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a major and career training. A major will provide a foundation for a wide range of careers, but some careers require more focus in preparing. In this case, you will want to make sure that all the schools on your college list offer the coursework that you need.

2) If you could choose any job in the world, what would it be? 

Maybe you have always wanted to be a journalist, or a computer programmer, or an art teacher. This is a good time to explore those options by taking some courses in that field of study and asking lots of questions.

3) Does earning potential matter?

If you will be working your way through college or if you need to take on a lot of debt, you want to do some research to find out the likelihood that a particular major will pay off in a lucrative career.

4) What sparks your enthusiasm?

If you find a particular field of study that excites you, you will work harder and learn more. You are also more likely to build connections which can lead to a successful career. Making such connections while working on a degree in English can lead to a job as a writer, publisher, or college professor. A history major could eventually land a job as a museum curator, lawyer, or archivist. Don’t rule out a major if it ignites your passion.

5) Are you interested in graduate school?

Many schools have a pre-med or a pre-law program specifically to prepare students to go on to medical school or law school. If you know you want to pursue a postgraduate degree, make sure that the courses you choose line up with grad school requirements.

6) What do you value most in a job?

What is most important to you in your future career? Do you want the opportunity to help others? Do you crave independence and a flexible schedule? Or are things like security and teamwork more important? Fleshing out these preferences now will help you zero in on the field of study and eventually the career that suits you best.

7) What are the obstacles?

Once you think you know which major most appeals to you, do a realistic assessment of anything standing in your way. Maybe you want to major in Psychology, but you dread the laboratory courses. Maybe your parents have their hearts set on a pre-med degree, but you are much more interested in studying music. Take stock of exactly what all the obstacles are, and determine if and how you can overcome them.

While it may seem like a huge commitment, you don’t need to stress about the process that can lead you to choose a college major. Take your time and figure out what your head and your heart are telling you.

Interested in getting college counseling to help you choose a college major?

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