Most people go to college with the idea that they’ll easily decide on their major, graduate within four years, and head right into a career that lasts the rest of their lives.
In reality, many people choose majors too quickly, don’t like them, and end up going back to school to switch gears mid-career.
Hopefully, these tips for choosing your college major will lead you to your long-term career.
Choose a Major That Suits Your Passions
Create a list of 10 things you love, such as writing, art, or technology, to help you get the ball rolling.
Once you have an idea of the things you consider your passions, make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you love the news but aren’t good at public speaking. You may not want to become a news anchor but could become a journalist.
It helps to think about your favorite subjects in school as well. If you’re always nodding off in history class, the coursework required to become an archaeologist may not be for you.
Don’t worry if you’ve done a lot of thinking and still aren’t sure. There is usually no rule saying you need to declare your major during freshman year.
Consider Your Career Goals
Most experts recommend taking a class or two in the relevant discipline for your chosen career before declaring the major. This way, you can talk to others on the same path and ensure it’s truly the path you want.
Keep in mind that some jobs require more education than others. If you need to work to put yourself through college, consider earning an associate degree first.
The two-year degree can boost your earning potential a bit to help you make enough for earning a bachelor’s degree and then, if desired, to go on to a graduate program.
You might also be able to get a joint degree in your major, which allows you to start your graduate degree while you’re still in the fourth year of your bachelor’s program.
Talk to People Who Are Older Than You
Sometimes, it does pay off to listen to your elders. Talk to your parents, your school advisor, and the professors and older students in the programs that interest you.
People who have completed most or all of the college experience can tell you what they did and didn’t like about their major, what they wouldn’t change about their experience, and what they might have done a bit differently.
The professors might naturally promote the courses they teach, but keep in mind that it’s their job to do so. The real dirt comes from the other students in the program.
They’ll provide an unfiltered look at what’s great about the major and what makes them wish they’d chosen something else sometimes. Then, you can decide if the risk seems worth the reward to you.
Of course, keep in mind that you’ll be spending a lot of time with most of the people you meet in the department. If you don’t like or get along with the professors or other students, you may not be happy in the career, either. Don’t be afraid to consider other options.
Don’t Declare Your Major Yet
It’s okay to take the first year of your college experience to discover more about yourself and what you want to accomplish with your life.
Most colleges don’t require you to pick your major until your sophomore year, so use your freshman year to take a wide variety of classes. Doing so can help you get to know several departments and professors to see which ones you mesh with and which paths might call to you.
Choose general education courses that interest you most to see if there is potential for a future in one of them. You might even find inspiration outside of your classes themselves.
You can also look for ways to intern or volunteer for causes that interest you to see if you might want to turn your interest into a career.
If you still can’t decide, don’t worry. You have other options, too.
If you decide your chosen major doesn’t work, you can change it. If you’re torn between two, you can even choose one as a minor or be very bold and declare a double major. Your advisor can help you determine the right course of action.