Tips For Choosing Your College Major

how to choose a college major

Flickr user York College of PA

Having to choose the right college major is just as important as choosing the right college for you. In fact, one of the major decisions (pun intended) of college life is what subject to major in. Sure you can change it but that might mean starting all over again, which can be frustrating and inconvenient. Spending thinking about your major before making a final choice will help you make a more informed choice, paving the way for a smoother ride through college.

Here’s how to choose a college major:

Spend Some Time Introspecting

Evaluating your passions and your interests is the first step. You could be interested in a lot of things right now but you need to narrow down to those few things you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life.

Think about what you want from life. What drives you? Are there things that keep you occupied? What type of work do you see yourself doing and enjoying? Is there a type of work you could never imagine yourself doing?

Make that initial list of your interests. Then re-examine and re-evaluate each entry and list them in order of priority. Keep those that made it to the top of the list for now.

While making your list, it is very important not to be swayed by other people’s opinions. Your parents may want you to be a doctor or an artist or lawyer but if this does not rock your boat, it may not be the best choice for you. Some people are wired to be entrepreneurs, some are born teachers.

Think about what is important for you in life—helping society, financial stability, status in society, working alone or as a group. Remember, there is no one right or wrong answer. Different people have different dreams and ambitions. What you want from your life is right for you. Don’t choose a college major to please anybody else.

Look At Your Past Performances For Clues

Now it’s time to look up your past performances—school, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and other interactions. Do you see a pattern there?

Have you always managed to outperform your peers in Biology? Or do you have that artistic flair that can take you to the next level? It’s time to figure out if there is anything you might have missed. List out any fields that stand out and think about whether you want to pursue any of them further based on that first introspective step.

Reach Out To Other Professionals In The Field

What better way to find out what a particular career path entails then speaking to those who have had first-hand experience!

Try and get in touch with people who used to or currently work in the fields you have shortlisted and speak to them to get a better idea of their jobs entail, what they like about their jobs, what they hate about them and how they got to where they are now.

If you cannot find personal connections that can give you the answers you looking for, try to contact professionals online. Send them an email requesting a moment of their time, state your purpose and put across your well-thought out questions. Be clear, concise, and respectful. No matter how busy they are, most professionals would take the time to respond to genuine queries.

You would do well to realize here that not all people are the same. Their experiences need not necessarily be the norm and someone else taking a similar decision may have a different set of experiences altogether. But it helps to have knowledge available at hand and take informed decisions.

Take Stock of Your Choices

Now compare the results of your first exercise with your findings in the second and third exercises and start eliminating from the list. For example, if financial stability is most important to you, then pursuing art may not be the best choice for you. But if a sense of adventure ranks high on the list, then joining the armed forces is probably a great career choice.

From the probable list of careers, you now need to analyze which majors are essential for continuing along that path. Several career options require an extensive list of prerequisite courses which might need you to dive head on into the curriculum very early. Medical school is a prime example. Engineering and physical therapy are a few other courses that might need you to be prepared with your majors in the first year itself or even before you start off college. Otherwise you might need to extend your course beyond the standard four years.

These, however, are the exceptions and not the norm. So, be sure to keep yourself updated with the ever-changing requirements for various career options.

If you aren’t sure about something, don’t be too shy or scared to ask your mentor or the Career Services Office in your school or college for inputs. They have a wealth of experience and information on the subject.

Be Realistic When You Choose a College Major

It sounds nice when you are told to follow your dreams. But the fact is that college education is expensive, and not everyone can afford to pick professions which do not pay well.

Have an in-depth discussion with your parents about their financial situation. Find out if they can and are willing to pay for your college tuition. Also think about whether the job you are aiming for is worth losing your financial security over. Is it sensible, in such a situation, to pick a career trajectory that needs a Masters’ degree to start paying you above minimum wage?

Asking all these questions of yourself and keeping track of things with a clear head can help you out immeasurably in choosing the right college major. Take time to make the right choice of now and you won’t have to go through the heartache of changing your major after you’ve started the semester.

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