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Choosing a College Major

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Choosing a major or course of study is often stressful and confusing. You have many choices available to you and it can be somewhat intimidating to have to decide on just one. Choosing a major is also a very personal decision. Balancing your hopes and aspirations with practical decisions can be tough. Start the process of choosing a major as early as possible – during your junior year of high school, if not before. You can enter college with an undecided major, but choosing your area of study can help you find a school that offers or specializes in that major.

Some things to examine when choosing a major are:

  • What are you interested in? What makes you excited? What types of careers/jobs interest you? There are self-assessments available to help you determine what you are interested in. Ask your guidance counselor or academic advisor for information on these assessments.
  • Examine your abilities. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What skills do you have? Look back at the classes you took in high school or at your extracurricular activities. What were your best classes? What did you enjoy about your extracurricular activities? Use this information to help you decide what you would be good at and what would interest you.
  • Examine what you value in regards to work. Some of these may be helping others, security, prestige, working alone or in a team environment, having a positive impact on others, etc. Take these values into consideration when choosing your major.
  • Do some career exploration. What is the job like on a daily basis? What type of salary will you earn? What are the future projections for your chosen career path? Your guidance counselor or academic advisor can help with your investigation. You can also check the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. They provide information about a variety of occupations, including future projections.
  • It’s time for a reality check. Honestly evaluate your options. Do you want to be a doctor, but have few science skills? Does your chosen occupation require a graduate degree but your future interests/commitments prohibit graduate study? It is possible to work around some of these obstacles, but it is necessary to be realistic about whether you can get around them.
  • You now have to narrow down your options and focus on choosing a major. You have done the research and self-assessment and should now have a better idea of what you do not want to major in. Along with this, you should have a handful of majors/careers that interest you. Make your choice according to these interests.

Keep in mind that many schools have double majors, triple majors, and dual degree programs. You can often pursue an additional interest by declaring it as your minor. If you have multiple interests, it is possible to pursue them all. Check with your chosen college for information about these options to make sure you know their guidelines.

If you are still struggling with choosing a major, there are several other resources available to you to help narrow down your choice of a major. Some of these include:

  • Your college catalog – There is a wealth of information available to you in the college catalog. You can determine required classes, majors, and tracks
  • Your professors or academic advisors – Many professors have worked in the field in which they teach. All are experts about careers and career opportunities. Academic advisors are very knowledgeable about this information as well.
  • Your classmates (especially upperclassmen) – These students are further into their studies and may have done internships. They can provide you with some insight as well as answer very specific questions.
  • Your college’s alumni – Many alumni are more than happy to talk to future or current students. Contact your school’s alumni office for contact information of someone that has graduated and worked in your chosen field.
  • Your family and friends – They may provide some insight into your interests and skills that you are not aware of. Pay attention when people tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are. Sometimes it can be difficult to see these on your own.
  • Your college’s career center – You will be able to see first hand the opportunities available to certain majors. They have a great deal of information and are very willing to help you sort through it.

The declaration of a major is not written in stone. A majority of students change their major at least once in their college careers. Many change their major several times over the course of their college career. Changing majors may mean that your degree will take longer to earn or you may accrue additional costs to earn your degree, but it is possible.

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