to Choosing the Best Major in College
Don’t you hate when movies and television shows portray characters that have always known from early childhood what they wanted to be when they grew up? The ice skater who has trained for the Olympics since she was three, the fourth-generation med school student, the would-be writer who published his first short story in middle school. Well, what about those of us who have no clue what we want to spend the next thirty years slogging away at every weekday while we count down to retirement? Fear not, because below is the ultimate guide for helping you choose the perfect major in college, even if right now you’re completely clueless on the matter.
Major vs. Minor vs. Undeclared
MAJOR: A specific area of study that will encompass a third to a half of the courses he takes in college. It is the main area of focus in your education, and what you hope to find a career doing someday.
MINOR: A secondary field of study that you work on at the same time you’re completing your major degree program. Some students electively choose to take a minor, while other degrees actually require it. A minor requires less courses than a major, but isn’t taken on it’s own.
UNDECLARED: An undeclared major is when a student enters college undecided on an area of study. You can’t graduate without a major, so this is a temporary status until you can figure out your major of choice.
How to Pick Your Major:
Start with a List
· List some things you like such as investing, technology, graphic design, art history, teaching, or physical therapy (helping others)
· List your strengths and weaknesses (and be honest with yourself!). For example, you might like the idea of having weekends and summers off, but maybe you really don’t like kids, or you lack patience. In that case, don’t fool yourself by trying to get a teaching degree
Get Real About What You Want to Earn, & Other Critical Considerations
· LIFESTYLE: Do you want a certain salary, or are you more interested in pursuing something that brings you joy, inspires passion, or helps change the world? Either way, it’s important to consider what type of lifestyle you want when deciding on a major.
· LOCATION: Are there plenty of jobs in your chosen field in the area you want to live? Do you want to work remotely (which would open the possibility for you to live anywhere in the world)?
· FREE TIME: How important is time off to you? Some jobs such as lawyers, doctors, and CEO’s, work as many as 100+ hours a week. If you want a more relaxed schedule, this is an area you need to strongly consider before declaring a major. Look into what type of hours you’d be required to work in various fields.
How Long Do You Want to Stay in School?
Many positions/careers require more than a bachelor’s degree. Some careers may only ask that you obtain an Associate’s. Take the time to research what your chosen field requires before you sign up for a particular major, because it may mean staying in school for an extra 4-6 years…or longer!
ASSOCIATE’S DEGREE: A two-year degree that is either an aassociates of arts (AA) or associate of science (AS). Some students obtain this at community college before transferring to another school to finish their Bachelor’s, while others enter the workforce after getting this degree. It all depends on the student, and even more importantly, their chosen career.
BACHELOR’S DEGREE: Usually a four-year program, sometimes five. You will receive a bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS) degree in upon completion of this program. You can also work toward a bachelor of fine arts or a bachelor of architecture degree in this program.
JOINT DEGREE: Students can combine degrees to get done more quickly. If you apply to a graduate program as an undergraduate, then begin the graduate program during your fourth year of college, you could graduate with a joint degree.
GRADUATE DEGREE: Advanced degrees to work toward after you have first received a bachelor’s degree. Master of arts (MA) or master of science (MS) are common, along with a doctoral degree (PhD).
If You Still Need Help Deciding
It’s not the end of the world if you have racked your brain and still can’t decide. You can head to college undeclared. Here are some pros and cons about entering college undeclared. But here are a few things to try first…
1. GET SOME OPINIONS: Ask your counselors, friends, and family what they think you’d be good at, where they see your biggest strengths. If you hear from more than one or two people that you would be a great public speaker lawyer, that could mean you’re onto something. Sometimes we don’t see ourselves in the most objective light, so take into consideration what those closest to you think.
2. TAKE A QUIZ (OR SEVERAL): There are countless online quizzes to help you narrow in on a major that suits your strengths and future goals. Here are three, but there are tons out there for you. Here's one, and another, and one more to try.
3. ATTEND SOME COLLEGE FAIRS: This is a great way to get introduced to schools you may not have even thought of yet. Additionally, you can see the lists of programs they offer, ask questions, and meet people who attend the school.
4. TALK TO COLLEGE STUDENTS FROM THE SCHOOL (OR SCHOOLS) OF YOUR CHOICE: Through a counselor, friend, or just reaching out on social media, you can connect with others who go to the college you’re interested in. Maybe through one of those conversations, you can get more detailed information on the programs they offer.