Choosing a major. It can be one of the biggest stressors going into your first year of college.
While it might seem like a colossal decision that affects the rest of your life, you actually have plenty of time and opportunities to change your mind.
Still, we know you don’t want to be stuck doing something you end up hating for 4 years. So, here are some helpful ideas on how to choose (or not choose) a major that’s right for you.
What is a Major?
You probably already know this, but a major is a specialized area of interest you choose to focus on throughout your college education. In addition to your General Education classes, you’ll take classes focused on your major to complete credits to graduate.
A minor is a secondary area of study you can take in addition to your major. The class requirements for a minor are generally not as intense as a major, but help you develop skills in two different areas of interest.
For those that want to have a strong foundation in two areas of study, a double major is also an option. Unlike a minor, your second major will be treated the same way as your first, with a full required course list needed to complete each major.
Whether you want to focus on a single major, include a minor, or jump into a double major, deciding on what you want to study is the best place to start.
What does your major really mean for your college life?
Let’s break it down this way. Generally, to graduate with a bachelors degree, you need to complete 120 credits. Your general education courses will account for about 40 credits while your major makes up 40-50 credits. That leaves you a little bit of room for some electives.
Nearly half of your education will revolve around your major. That’s why making the right decision for you is so important.
So, how do I pick my major?
If you’re an incoming freshman, our biggest piece of advice is not to stress about it.
Most colleges don’t require you to declare a major until sophomore year, so you have time to figure it out.
But I get it, some of us are planners, and we want to get ahead of the game. In that case, here are a few tips to help you get in the mindset to choose your major.
Make a list
You might notice that we’re big fans of lists around here. Writing things down can help you think through things, both visually and logically. When deciding your major, there are two types of lists you should think about creating.
What Do I Like?
Ask yourself this question and write down all the things that come to mind. It doesn’t have to be only in the education space. If you like volunteering at an animal shelter or playing video games, include those things.
Give yourself a chance to explore all the things you’re passionate about during this exercise. While they might not end up being your major, they can help you navigate your way to something that involves little pieces of the things you love most.
What Am I Good At?
Next up, write down all the things you’re good at. And if you’re up for it, include a list of things you think you’re not so good at.
How is this helpful? When compared to the “what do I like” list, this can give you a sense of how to pair the things you like to do with the things you’re good at.
For example, if you’re great at coding and enjoy playing video games, you might want to consider computer science or engineering as a major.
Talk to a Professional
A great way to get a sense of what major you might like is to speak to someone using their major out in the real world. Whether it’s a parent, family member, friend, or acquaintance, advice from someone with relevant job experience can help out.
Come prepared with questions about the work/life balance, salary, ease of getting into the industry, and career growth. These can all help give you a sense of whether or not careers within your major are a fit for you
While most students wait until later in college to intern, if you have the opportunity to do so earlier, it could help you pick a major.
Classroom learning is amazing but paired with hands-on experience, it’s even better. Especially when you’re undecided about what you might want to do for a living.
Speak to Other Students
Reaching out to students majoring in something you’re interested in can teach you a lot. If you need help connecting with students, consider talking to your school counselor. They might be able to put you in contact with previous students you can talk to.
If possible, ask them about the type of classes they’re taking, what they’re learning, and what they think the pros and cons of the major are.
Things to Think About
Before you choose a major, there are certain aspects of each industry you might want to consider. Start by asking yourself these three questions.
Does this major provide job security?
While there’s no definitive answer to this, some industries are in need of talent while others are highly competitive or don’t offer job security.
If you like the idea of knowing you’ll always have a job, you might want to stick to a major in an industry where job security is the norm.
Am I excited about this?
It may or may not matter to you that you’re passionate about what you get up and do every day. If you are driven by loving what you do, make sure that you get a little hands-on experience to see if the job opportunities within your major check that box for you.
Will I Make Good Money?
Again, money may not be the deciding factor in the career you choose. If it is, do some research on the typical incomes within a given field and make sure it’s something you’ll be happy with.
Don’t Sweat It
Here’s the thing, it’s great to be prepared, but don’t knock yourself out trying to pick a major before you step foot in a classroom.
Sometimes, your first year on campus is your chance to take electives that will help you narrow down your options.
Even if you do decide on a major right away, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. Studies show that most students change their major at least once. Some change it several times.
Focus on your education, do some real-world exploration, and enjoy the college experience. Chances are when the time comes you’ll have some definitive ideas about what you want to do.
And if you don’t? Well, just 27% of college grads have jobs related to their major. For now, pick something that excites you and trust that your education is still going to open many other doors for you in the future.