How to Pick a College: Part 2 Choosing a Major

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Think of academic study in college as an opportunity to refine a skillset. At Empowerly, we ask our student what problem they want to solve and which skills they’ll need to address it. Choosing a major is the first step and should always serve as part of an academic plan. Your college decision should be based on the overall tools and resources a university offers. Hopefully you have a tentative idea that can be easily explained.

Unique Major/Minor Combination

Depending on school size and academic focus, universities can offer 80-100 majors across departments, so create a few different scenarios as back up your college decision. Ultimately this takes time but having a plan will help direct focus. Start by looking for specific concentrations or minors to supplement your interests. You can learn as much as you want so don’t feel restricted.

For example, what should you do with an interest in data science and energy policy? Job prospects seem to increasingly come up as an influential factor but projections are tough to correlate beyond simple major selection. One possible route is the overlap between Computer Science and a Climate Change minor. Algorithmic construction is a key part of computer programming and typically combines with data sweeps for solutions. In the energy sector this can lead to environmental modeling, situational simulations, and much more. Such applications reveal an often unspoken truth, that learning is driven by interest.

Research Labs

The classroom isn’t the only place where students find applications. College decisions should be informed by research opportunities in labs where cutting-edge research takes place. Universities vary in resources and offerings which can affect the intellectual landscape. While one university houses virtual reality, another may study its medical uses. Students should have an eye on opportunities to work as research assistants to gain exposure to laboratory techniques and study design, components that make up scholarly research.


Outside of teaching professors often dedicate their time to publishing their academic findings in books, journals, and other research publications. Their university websites frequently list a short bio, contact information, course listings, and topics of interest. This is incredibly useful in mapping the possibilities and discovering or reinforcing academic inclinations.

For example, the CS + Environmental interest could be bolstered by investigations into the economic policies of Southeast Asian Countries, the history of U.S. renewable energy developments, service-learning opportunities with urban renewal non-profit organizations, and many more. Individually, these scenarios likely can’t tip the scales in college decisions, but as a collective, they enable solid comparison between universities.

Questions? Let us know!