6 Things to Consider When You Don’t Know What to Major in

Thursday, January 24, 2019

How to Choose a MajorExplore Your Interests to Identify Your College Course of Study

When it comes to the college admissions process, the first question students are often asked is “what do you plan to study?” Choosing best-fit schools to apply to is stressful enough without factoring in that students also have to make hard decisions about what they want to major in while still in high school.

It is important for students to thoroughly research and ask the right questions before deciding on a major and, subsequently, the schools that have their best-fit academic programs. Remember, similarly to how you shouldn’t base your list on college prestige, you should also consider majors that are true to your interests and passions. Keep reading for some important inquiries you should ask before choosing your desired field of study!

How to Select a College Major: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Many students have a hard time choosing a college major. Especially if you have multiple interests, it can be challenging to identify one specific subject that you want to focus on throughout your college career. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before making your decision:

Do I have to choose a major now?

It’s true that many colleges do not require students to declare their academic areas of interest until sometime during their sophomore year. However, applying to certain programs during your college admissions process can demonstrate a student’s passion for a specialty and help that applicant stand out. Colleges have institutional needs, and it can be easier for a school to see how you fit into the campus fabric when you have a specialty and selected course of study, rather than applying with no major at all. Other applicants may choose to go into college as undecided or select something general such as “liberal studies” as a major.

Students should review deadlines and policies at their top-choice schools to learn more about the process of declaring a major at their specific institution and how choosing not to apply to a specific program can impact their admissions chances. The process of majoring is also something students can bring up during college tours or virtual college visits.

What were my favorite classes and activities in high school?

When researching colleges and deciding what you want to study, it is important to choose a major that you are passionate about. To get some clues about what types of fields of study might work best for you, reflect on what high school classes you excelled in and the assignments you enjoyed most. For example, a student who loves high school science and aces AP Bio may wish to look into pre-medical tracks, while someone who looks forward to every essay assignment may be pulled towards a writing-intensive major such as journalism, political science, or English.

What are the requirements for this major?

In order to make an informed decision about your course of study and your best-fit schools, you need to dig deep and find out exactly what is involved in each major you are considering. Different academic programs may have various requirements and pre-requisites, such as classes in related fields, lab work, or competency in a foreign language. Research exactly what students in your prospective major need to do in order to graduate with a degree in this field, including potential culminating projects such as a thesis paper, research project, or oral presentation.

What can I do to learn more?

Colleges often offer detailed descriptions of the majors offered at the institution. Majors at Yale, for example, are listed online, along with all of the requirements. While reading about course descriptions and requirements is a good start, students should take their research a step further before selecting their major. When visiting colleges, see if it is possible to sit in on a lecture that is required for the field of study you are interested in. Students may also want to look into meeting with a faculty member in their prospective major and/or reaching out to a current college student studying the topic they are interested in to learn more about the program firsthand.

How will this major fit into my career aspirations?

Take a moment to envision what you wish to do in the years following college graduation. Many students are unsure of the exact job they wish to obtain, but you likely have at least a rough idea of a couple of professions that may appeal to you. Consider how majoring in a specific field may relate to these ambitions and make connections between a course of study and careers you are interested in. Many majors can tie into a variety of career paths, so don’t worry about being “boxed in” to one profession—instead, seek out internships and advanced courses to continue to explore your job interests throughout college.

What to Do When You Can’t Decide on a Major

Go for Internships and Volunteer Work

Internships and volunteer programs are a great opportunity to start to explore new interests and get a sense of what kind of work you will enjoy doing most. Start by signing up for a meaningful community service position that relates to an extracurricular activity that you already participate in or try finding summer internships in a field that connects to your favorite subject in school. 

Talk to Academic Advisors and Your Parents

It’s always helpful to have insight from the people who know you best. Make sure to sit down with your academic advisor to start discussing which majors might be the best fit for you, based on your current academic performance and extracurricular involvement.

Learn the Labor Market

Take some time to learn what kinds of jobs are out there before you make your decision. Browse job sites like Linkedin to get an understanding of the responsibilities associated with various positions and what kinds of majors might be relevant.

Can You Change Your Major?

Part of what makes choosing a major so challenging is that the decision can feel very final. While it’s best to take some time and pinpoint a major that you’re really passionate about, it is ok to change your mind about your area of focus. Most students can switch majors quite easily during the beginning of their college career. If you’re further along towards your degree, it might require some additional coursework, but it’s almost always possible to change if you put in enough hard work and discuss what you’re thinking with your academic advisor.

If you haven’t found any college majors that spark your interest yet, read our article to find out a few colleges that can offer you a unique major.

Related Topics

College Majors, College Prep

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