Major Decisions: How To Pick A College Major

By Elana Goodwin on September 22, 2015

Pretty much the biggest decision you will face at college is picking what you want to major in. Choosing a college major is a complex and hard process, as it may impact what careers you qualify for after graduating college.

Here are some tips on how to pick a college major.

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At most schools and in most cases, you don’t actually have to pick a college major until the end of your sophomore year. Until you figure out what major you want to declare, you can take your General Education classes and check out and explore various subjects to find out which topics appeal to you most. To help you choose a major, you’ll want to take a variety of different courses to see what you’re really interested in.

Students who say their major is “undecided” can get a bad rap, but if you’re not sure about what you want to study, not declaring an intended major right away can be a smart decision. Don’t feel pressured to pick a major early just so you have some direction – because it may not end up being the direction you want to go in.

That being said, if you think you want to go into a field like engineering or go to medical school, you’ll want to decide on your college major early, otherwise you may not have the time to take all the required courses for your degree within four years.

Some schools have pre-law or pre-med tracks, which are for students intending to continue on to law or medical school, though the students in those advising programs may be pursuing different degrees. For example, if you want to go to medical school, you may choose to major in biology while another pre-med student majors in chemistry.

You don’t necessarily have to major in something that’s related to the field you think you want to go into, but if you’re determined to be a doctor, you may want to major in something that will help you in the long run.

You’ll also want to pick a major sooner rather than later because even degrees in other fields may have specific requirements that will take you time to fulfill, and not every course is offered each semester. So if you don’t want to exceed four years at college – which could be pricey – you’ll want to do some soul-searching during your first two years there so you can confidently make an informed decision about what your college major will be.

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If you do pick a major and start working towards it before realizing it’s not the right fit for you – don’t worry, you’re not alone. I was actually a journalism major my freshman year before switching to English my sophomore year. In fact, most students will change their major at least once during their time at university.

It’s also important to consider what your end goal is. Do you want a major that you’ll love, even if you’re not sure what your vocational direction after college will be? Do you want a major that will prepare you for a specific job? Are you hoping to land a high-paying job after school?

These questions will all affect what college major you choose and what field you go into. While your major may not predict or completely impact your future as far as job prospects go, majoring in something that relates to what you want to do can be beneficial – but many graduates end up with jobs that have no correlation to what they majored in. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average millennial changes jobs once every three years and the average person switches career fields two or three times during their life.

When trying to pick a major, it’s helpful to talk to an advisor, which colleges typically assign students when they first enter the university. Look into whether your school has any sort of assessment tools that may help you figure out what major is right for you and take whatever tests you can to help you decide what path you want to take.

You may also want to reach out to a dean or advisor in the college or major that you’re thinking of declaring, and set up an appointment to talk to them about whether the major may be a good fit for you and your career goals.

So don’t be afraid to say you don’t know what you want to study – your first years at college are the perfect time to explore and decide on a college major, and there are plenty of resources you can tap to help you figure it out. Good luck!

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