How to Choose a College Major

How to Choose a College Major

Deciding where to go to college is tricky, but once you get to college, there’s another tough decision on the horizon: what to major in. Unless you have a very specific idea of what you want to do post-graduation, it can be difficult to pick a major.

Here are some tips to make this process a bit more straightforward for students who aren’t quite sure what they want to study.

Tip #1: Find out what you don’t like first
The idea is to major in something you’re passionate about. For students who are unsure of what to study, the first semester of college is a great opportunity to explore a bit. Colleges offer all sorts of classes that are more specialized than what you’d find in a high school classroom—and new students, having never been exposed in certain subjects, have no way of ruling things out. Try a few different classes that seem interesting to you, and pay attention to what you really don’t like before focusing on what you do—eliminating specific fields is helpful, particularly early on in your collegiate career.

Tip #2: Read about the major requirements
Maybe you want to major in finance, but then start reading through the major’s requirements and realize you have to take two calculus courses, when you absolutely hated calculus in high school. Or maybe you’re considering a comparative literature major in high school—but you have to take a language, when you struggled with Spanish classes previously. Majors have all sorts of additional requirements beyond core classes, and you should be fully aware of those requirements before making a commitment.

Tip #3: Talk to your advisor
Many colleges require you to meet with your advisor before choosing a major, but even if your school doesn’t, you might want to schedule a meeting with your four-year advisor to discuss the pros and cons of a major. Advisors can offer you insight from their years of experience. They can also refer you to someone else if they don’t feel equipped to answer your questions. You might also want to talk to an older student currently on the major track you’re considering. Whatever you decide, it’s smart to have a conversation with someone else within the school before committing.

Tip #4: Consider data regarding majors
There are tons of data points available about the majors that are the most popular and the majors with the best earning potential. This data might play into your decision. It’s helpful to look not just at data on a national level, but also at your school in particular. Is your school highly-ranked for certain majors? Is there information on job placement rates post-graduation? Knowing data about your school can help you determine what strengths you may be able to take advantage of.

Numbers are helpful, but remember that numbers also are sometimes misleading. If you’re really passionate about a particular area but feel pressure to pick another major that yields higher average earnings post-graduation, keep in mind that these numbers are just averages, and there are exceptions to every rule.

Ultimately, You Dictate Your Career
You might feel like once you’ve chosen a major, you’ve chosen a career. While what you major in will likely dictate what direction your career goes in—especially when you’re searching for that first internship or post-grad job—it’s important to remember that people have successful careers all the time in industries that have little to do with their majors. Your major will definitely dictate your college curriculum, but it doesn’t have to dictate your career.
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