Common Mistakes Students Make When Choosing a Major

You’ve managed to make it through high school and are on to bigger and better things. You are excited about college but don’t seem to have an answer to that all-important and often-asked question, “What are you going to major in”. You’ve changed your mind so many times through the years—which is not unusual—but now you just don’t know what to settle on. That’s why we’ve written about how to choose a major and some common mistakes associated with that process.

Choosing a major is an important decision. Although it is possible to change your major, this is not an ideal option. Unfortunately, many students do not spend enough time to think through their decision. They know they can change their major midway and they rush into making a decision for all the wrong reasons.

Knowing some of the common mistakes students when they choose a major will help you avoid the pitfalls.

A red sign with white lettering that says "wrong way."

Choosing the Same Major as Their Best Friend

Remember when you used to do whatever you could to get into the same classes as your best buddy when you were in high school? It was a bonus if you could get every single class together. Well, things just aren’t the same in college. Don’t pick the same major as your best friend just because you think you can help each other study and do homework.

You are two different people. It is probably true that you have very similar interests, after all, you are best friends for a reason. However, that doesn’t mean you should major in the same subject. You can be roommates and can still help each other out with assignments. But, you don’t have to have the same major in order to do so.

Choosing a Major to Be in a Favorite Professor’s Class

While it is understandable that you want a great teacher, choosing a major just so you can be in a well-known professor’s class is a mistake. You can always set up meetings with the professor throughout the year if you think you need their guidance or support. Most professors would be happy to help you out even if you are not in their class. Moreover, there are many great professors out there, so don’t let your whole future hinge on one person.

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Deferring to the Choice of an Authority Figure

Parents want what’s best for their kids, there’s no doubt about that, but sometimes they can become over-involved and force their desires on their children. Maybe they want to ensure the child is financially well-off, so they insist on a business major. Or maybe they’re a scientist who wants their child to follow in their footsteps. Whatever the reason, you should not acquiesce to anybody else’s suggestions if you don’t feel strongly that it is right for you. Your choice of major can have long term ramifications so it is most important to choose for yourself.

Look at the big picture. No matter how much someone else wants something for you, if you aren’t interested, it isn’t going to turn out well. Sure, you can probably get through the classes, get decent grades and graduate, but will you be happy waking up every day to go to work in a career that you do not like? Don’t be afraid to speak up and let them know how you feel. Your major will shape your future, so make your own choice.

Choosing a Major That Promises Better Job Prospects

There are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of different types of jobs out there. You should do a little research in the fields of study you are interested in.

Remember, the ultimate goal after graduation is to get hired and start earning an income. If the career you are interested in has a declining hiring rate, it may not be the best choice. Take the time to look up the employment outlook of several of your interests. Make sure you are not investing your time and money into a dying career.

In addition, there are also many majors out there that have very limited career opportunities, so don’t base your choice on an “easy major”. Often, students find a class that really interests them, and they declare the subject as their major. While passion and interest are very important, you want to make sure that you can “do something” with your major after you graduate. While looking up the job outlook of your career interests, also look up careers that fall under your major interest. Is there a career you could see yourself doing that falls under that major?

Failing To Check it Out

Just because it looked like fun in the latest Netflix series you have been watching, doesn’t mean it should be your major. Movies and TV shows often glorify a career and make it seem easier than it is. Actors solve crimes in 45 minutes and make millions of dollars in two hours’ time. Obviously, this is not realistic. It is your job to take the time to check out the facts.

Set up a job shadow or two so you can spend a day trailing a professional in the field you are interested in. Take the time to ask them about the ups and downs of the profession. What do they like? What do they dislike? Do they have any advice for you? Take the information you gather and determine if this is something you too would enjoy.

If you decide it sounds interesting, see if you can apply for an internship, paid or unpaid. The goal is to soak up as much information as you can. The more time you spend out in the field, the more you will know about the career. More often than not, you will learn much more through experience than you will from books and professors. An internship may be your best look into your future career.

The major you choose today will shape your future tomorrow so you want to make this choice with much thought and care. It is okay to be roommates with your best friend, but you don’t have to pick the same major. Don’t compromise and just settle on something at random because you have to choose a major. Look at the big picture and do your research. Spending some time in your fields of interest will help you see the good, bad, and the ugly sides of that field. It empowers you to make better decisions about your future. Hopefully our tips on how to choose a major and what mistakes to avoid help you make an informed decision.

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