If you still don’t have an answer when people pop the inevitable “What’s your major?” question at parties, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In fact, statistics show that most college students wait until at least the middle of their sophomore year before declaring a major. Those super-organized nutjobs who have had their degree plan nailed down since kindergarten? They’re actually in the minority.
According to career counselors, this is one instance in which procrastination actually works to your advantage. Your college major is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your life; few other choices play as significant a role in guiding your career path and future direction, so it makes sense to put choosing a major off until you’re older – and a bit more certain of your interests and strengths.
Whether you’re a freshman who’s just heading off to campus or a junior who is staring down your declaration deadline, it’s important to think things through carefully when you’re making this momentous decision. Here are some tips to help guide you through the major-selection process.
* What are you interested in? The first step in choosing a major involves taking a survey of the fields, industries, and activities to which you’re most strongly attracted. Flip through your college’s course catalog and see if anything catches your fancy. If you’re still stuck, set up an appointment with your guidance counselor, or inquire about job interest surveys at your college’s career center.
* What are your career goals? Do you envision yourself as a busy corporate worker bee or a laid-back academic? Do you want to work 80 hours a week at an office or freelance from home? Thinking about the ideal shape and trajectory of your professional life can help you narrow down suitable fields that will be most likely to help you make those dreams a reality.
* What are the job prospects like in your field? Research the job market for each of the prospective majors you’re interested in. Make sure that enough demand exists to support new grads in your field. For example, are you really going to be able to support your ideal lifestyle with an undergraduate degree in philosophy?
* What advice do friends, family members, and trusted college staff have for you? Seek out the college grads whose opinion you trust and respect and ask for their input. If you know anybody who graduated with the degree you’re thinking of pursuing, grill them about their career prospects, their college experience, and whether they think they made the right choice. Also, feel free to ignore the advice of people who just want to push their own agenda for your life.
* What does your gut tell you? After you’ve checked out the issue from every possible angle and finally settled on a major, make sure it feels like the right decision. Sure, engineers make a lot of money, but if you’re just pursuing that path to please your parents, it’s probably not going to work out for the best. Before you commit to a major, make sure you’re 100% committed to the career path and the lifestyle that the field of study will entail.
Do you already have a major, or do you plan on waiting until the last possible moment to declare? Let us know in the comments.
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