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Choosing a Major: What do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s an innocent enough question, one that parents ask their children regularly and elementary school teachers ask their students when they’re getting ready to assign reports about careers, but when the time arrives to seriously consider— gulp! —a college major and a potential profession, some people have a lot of trouble making up their minds.

I have friends that knew “what they wanted to do when they grew up” ever since we had to do those elementary school reports back in the fourth grade, and I know other people that have been bouncing around from job to job over the last couple of years, testing the waters in various areas in hopes of finding a career that makes them happy—yep, even though they went to college and have a degree.

Professionals in certain careers—accountants, doctors and lawyers are three that come to mind pretty quickly— had to earn degrees to be able to work in their particular field, but a lot of people have jobs in areas that are completely unrelated to their degrees. This is actually pretty common, particularly in times of recession and high unemployment, and most majors can prepare you to work in a variety of careers—a degree in communications could lead to a career as a news anchor or a job in public relations.

A Major You Enjoy Can Keep you Motivated

Even though your college degree doesn’t necessarily have to define your life’s career, you should choose a major that honestly interests you. If you spend your college years focusing on an area which appeals to you, you’ll probably stay motivated and most likely earn better grades. If you’re interested in a career that requires graduate school, you’ll still have a few majors to choose from. As long as you meet the requirements for admittance to the graduate school program of your choice, you should be fine. Some colleges do not require students to officially declare a major until the beginning of their junior year, when their courses will become more focused on the major they selected.

This advice all seems simple enough, but deciding on a college major can be difficult, and it seems next to impossible for some people. A lot of college students begin school without officially declaring a major because they want to choose one after trying out a few general courses. That’s a good idea; an area they never even considered might wind up catching their interest!

Choosing a Major: Common Mistakes People Make

All too often, students choose a particular major only because their parents wanted them to. College is the time to become an adult and learn what it’s like to live your own life, which also means that you should be making your own decisions. If you’re afraid to admit to your parents that you aren’t really interested in the field that’s their dream job for you, you’ve probably got some problems that need to be resolved.

Just because your father and your grandfather were attorneys, it doesn’t mean you have to be one, too. Unless a particular field of study honestly interests you, something will probably wind up backfiring on you, causing you to quit school or suffer through a career that you hate.

A lot of students select certain majors because statistics show that jobs in that area are on the rise, or because they think they’ll get a high paying job after graduation and be set for life. If you think the stress of studying for a major that doesn’t interest you is going to wear off once you’re out “in the real world,” you need to think again.

Ask Yourself a Few Questions

You might want to sit down with a campus career counselor, your academic advisor, or another person at your school that is willing to listen without trying to influence your decision. One of the best ways to make a big decision—such as “What college major should I choose?”—is by asking yourself a few questions!

Taking these things into consideration might help:

1. What are my interests?

2. What subjects did I enjoy studying during high school or this far in college?

3. What careers involve my interests and the subjects I enjoyed studying?

4. What kind of work do I enjoy doing?

5. Do my work habits overlap with those necessary for the potential careers involving my interests and favorite subjects?

If you have a few career paths or college majors in mind, be sure to check out the StateUniversity.com section on Featured Career Profiles.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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