5 Tips for Choosing a College Major

Choosing a college degree program in which to enroll can prove overwhelming. However, don’t let the fear of choosing a major stop you from going to school. You don’t have to know whether you want to earn an online IT masters degree or an on-campus humanities bachelor’s degree or one of hundreds of other options just yet. If you’re committed to earning a degree and you follow these five tips, you will find the right major or majors for your individual goals.

Start School Before You Decide

Unless you’re attending a trade school — and even then — there tend to be some general requisites that everyone at your university will have to complete in order to earn a degree, regardless of major. If you’re at a liberal arts college, for example, you can likely fill your entire first year with only general requisite classes and still have time to start your major in subsequent years.

Don’t look at starting off with general courses as time wasted. Not only is earning these credits necessary for your graduation, but taking a variety of courses early on in your study can expose you to different interests. One of these courses might spark an interest and encourage you to pursue further study in a major you had never considered before.

Think About Favorite Subjects

Sometimes it’s not precisely what you studied, but the fact that you studied and became a better learner attracts future employers. Study what makes you passionate and you may be able to turn that passion into a major.  Think back to the types of classes you enjoyed most in high school and in which subjects you got the best grades. Sign up for classes in those subjects.

Start with a general topic such as history, get to know the professors in that field, and they can help you choose a more specific major — or suggest the general major if they believe you’re suited for it.

Consider Your Career Goals

Sometimes knowing what you’re going to do for a living after you earn your degree is even harder to figure out than choosing a major. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do — but if you do, then simply ask an advisor which major you should choose. If you don’t know yet, then consider which of these characteristics you’d like in your ideal job, and bring your checklist to an academic or career center advisor.

  • Working with people
  • Working independently as much as possible
  • Specific city or type of area in which you’d like to live
  • Ideal salary
  • Willingness to work overtime
  • Things you’ve liked and disliked about previous jobs

This is just a basic list, but it may help a counselor get an idea of the types of careers that would suit you, which will help you choose a field of study.

Apply for Internships

If you have an idea of a job you’d like to have in the future, even if it’s just a whim at the moment, shadowing people who work in that field can help you decide if you’d like to pursue that career. Speak with the career center at your college for internship ideas and help applying for internships in your area. If you have an upcoming break from classes, you may be able to take an internship in another location for a short time. At the very least, you may get college credit, and if you don’t wind up liking the job, then you can rule out that career path and major.

Ask Academic Advisors for Help

Most colleges provide free consultations with academic advisors. Their job is to make sure you take all of the classes you need to fulfill the general requirements as well as your major program. They’d be happy to help you select a major based on the subjects you prefer and your goals for a future career. They can also point you to your college’s career center for more career ideas.

If you’re worried about selecting a college major, focus on starting your general requisites before you choose a major, think about your favorite subjects, come up with career goals, speak with academic advisors and apply for internships in fields that interest you. You’re bound to come up with the major or majors that suit you if you follow these tips. And remember, it’s okay to change your major later.

About the Author: Jesse Lounsbury is a contributing blogger and academic advisor at a state university. His college tips have appeared in sites and publications such as Creighton online and the local newspaper.

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