Choosing a major is many students’ ultimate decision in the college application process. It’s the choice you will make that will send your future education and career on the first steps down its long and exciting path. But, while some people know what they want to do with their lives from a young age, many are less certain. For anyone still figuring it out here are some things to consider along the way to choosing a college major.
How to Choose a College Major
Ultimately, choosing a college major comes down to what you find important. Some students look for majors that focus on high-earning potential, while others are more driven by their passions or topics that fascinate them. There is no hard and fast answer for what major someone should or shouldn’t choose. After all, you are the only one who can determine what is and isn’t worth your time.
Despite your choice of a major being subjective, there are ways that you can refine your focus. You just need to evaluate what you’re really looking for in an education. Here are the steps:
Determine what is important to you.
First, determine what you consider your top priorities for your education. Do you want to stay close to home? Do you want to follow your personal hobbies or passions? Does your family have a common career or educational path you want to follow?
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Sit down and make a bullet-point list of what you think is important. Consider answering questions such as:
- How far am I willing to go from home?
- How important is career earnings potential?
- How important is education cost?
- Will I want to continue my education to a graduate degree or stop at a 4-year degree?
- How important is it that I am passionate about my work?
- What are my career goals?
These are just a few examples of questions to ask yourself to help eliminate some options from your list of potential majors. For example, suppose you are only interested in a 4-year degree. In that case, you can rule out most majors in medicine, law, or engineering, as they generally require graduate degrees to become competitive in the workforce.
Conversely, if you are not willing to travel far from home, you will need to limit yourself to the programs offered by the universities surrounding you. Also, you should determine if there is demand for a given career in your region. It may be hard to find work as a marine biologist in Kentucky. These are just a few factors to consider before setting out on the next step.
Determine your aptitudes.
Once you’ve set some basic parameters, begin evaluating what you’re good at. Are you a people person? Are you good with mathematics and logical thinking? Are you artistic or musically inclined? Are you interested in animals?
Evaluating your aptitudes can help to quickly eliminate potential majors that won’t be a good fit for you. For example, someone who struggles with math might want to avoid careers in engineering, computer sciences, finance, etc. These fields generally require lots of complex calculations on a daily basis.
Next, figure out what you’re good at, and look for majors that fit those aptitudes. Here are a few examples:
- Are you good with people, and find it easy to have deep conversations with friends? Maybe try exploring social work or a psychology degree.
- Are you artistic? Maybe try graphic or digital design, or another artistically-focused degree.
- Are you passionate about helping people or animals? Look into medicine or veterinary degrees.
Identifying what you do best will make choosing studying a lot easier.
Determine what you’re interested in.
Deciding your major is more than just figuring out what you’re good at. It’s also about determining what you’re interested in. There are plenty of people who don’t like math but went on to have lucrative careers in computer science because they were so passionate about the field that they overcame their weaknesses.
So, the final step to determining your major is figuring out what you really want to study—even if it’s just a general subject area at first. For example, what gets you most excited when you think about waking up every day to learn?
- Liberal arts (literature, philosophy, mathematics)?
- Architecture, engineering, or design?
Figure out what most excites you, and you can hone in on the major that will best suit you and your personality, aptitudes, and interests.
Do Your Research to Declare a Major.
Ultimately, picking a major for college boils down to just three simple factors:
- What matters most to you?
- What are you good at?
- What are you interested in?
Answering these questions will help you eliminate majors that won’t be a good fit and examine majors that will. If possible, you should take the time to visit nearby campuses and attend career courses or events. These can help you meet with college recruiters and professionals in various fields who can provide even more insight into what each major is actually like in practice, not just theory.
Another good practice is to conduct informational interviews with experts in your future career path and in fields that interest you. You can reach out to higher education professors or professionals on LinkedIn for their insight into the fields of study that have caught your eye. For example, if you want a high paying job in Texas and decide to research petroleum engineering, you may be hesitant because you would work on ships or oil rigs in the middle of the ocean, but you may attend a career session and learn most of their work is in an office or lab setting. Once you are well versed in what these majors are like both during and after education, you can finally make the ultimate choice of which college major is best for you. You can also use the Bureau of Labor Statistics to research the outlook of careers over time.
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