The 5 Most Common Myths About Choosing Your Major

Gwen Hornaday
Gwen Hornaday

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

Students entering the college admissions process have a lot of questions, but one of the most common ones we hear is “How do I choose my college major?” It can be very stressful making a decision that feels like it will determine the rest of your life. In this article, we’ll review five of the most common myths about choosing your major for college.

But we have good news! Your college major doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think it does, and you don’t have to decide right away. According to information from the Ohio State University, 50-75% of students end up changing their majors at least once before earning a degree.

In addition, there may even be majors and minor options you find in college that you didn’t even know existed. Before making the decision about your college major, here are the 5 common myths you may want to have dispelled.

Myth #1: Your major will determine your career.

Part of the anxiety about choosing a major stems from the pressure of thinking your major will lock you into a certain career. For example, if you choose chemistry, you will work in lab. Or if you choose English, you will become a writer. However, in a majority of cases, your major does not determine your career. A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that only about 27% of college graduates work in a career related to their college major. Chemistry majors work in a range of fields, including business, industry, government, and academia. English majors work in public relations, artificial intelligence, marketing, and more.

There are many factors that will play a role in determining the job offers you receive down the road. These include experience, connections, network, and the skills you chose to develop and market for yourself. So this is one of those myths about choosing your major can be pretty much busted.

Myth #2: If you want to make good money, choose a STEM major.

While at the top end of their pay scale, STEM and engineering graduates earn the most. However, when looking at the average graduate, salaries vary. Douglas A. Webber, an Associate Professor of Economics at Temple University who studies earnings by academic field, investigated this trend. He found that English or History graduates who make just above their major’s median lifetime earnings make a good amount of money compared to some graduates in business or a STEM field. So don’t limit yourself to the “top-paying majors” if they aren’t good fits for you. You still have the opportunity to make good money.

Myth #3: You need to have your major picked out before applying to college.

In an article from the Division of Undergraduate Studies at Penn State, it was found that students are almost guaranteed to change their major. This is because freshmen age students often have not reached the appropriate developmental stage to make the decision about their college major. This makes sense, as the majority of students end up changing their majors at least once! Many colleges are aware of this, which is why they don’t ask you to declare your major until the end of your sophomore year. It is okay to use the first year of college to experience all that college has to offer, learn more about yourself, and explore possible career paths.

However, it is true that if you know you might pursue certain majors, you should start to take those classes early. These include engineering, pre-med, or any other that requires an extensive list of prerequisites. So consider what you may be interested, but allow yourself the chance to explore as well. 

Myth #4: You need to choose a pre-listed major.

Again, we can say that this is another one of those myths about choosing your college major that doesn’t hold true. There are a decent number of colleges today, including Indiana University and Cornell University, that offer the option for students to design their own majors. This means the student can determine all of the classes that will build up that major. If you believe your interests and skill sets don’t fit well under a pre-specified major, you can create your own set of classes that better fit! You may also adapt for your career, academic, and personal goals. Consider that the workforce is constantly changing. Therefore, if you find that the majors offered don’t keep up with the career you have in mind, consider alternative options.

Myth #5: Majors are the only way to get experience in a field.

This belief often drives to students to double major, or even triple major, despite the difficulty. Nonetheless, there may be other options that may work better for them and their career goals. Universities may offer special minor programs and certificate programs that allow you to demonstrate your knowledge in certain fields. Some even offer the ability to take classes without the minor or certificate at the end of it; this can be enough to market yourself as having experience with a subject, such as computer programming or accounting. Consider college as a chance to gain a skill set, so be open to all of your options before overloading yourself with multiple majors.

As you can see from this article, many common myths about choosing your major for college aren’t set in stone. Still uncertain what path is for you? Empowerly can help.

Questions? Let us know!