IvyWise Resources

How to Explore Your Interests and Choose a Major

High school student preparing for college considers how to choose a major

By Scott, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor

As you imagine your college experience, perhaps you think primarily of the friends you’ll make, what type of campus you’ll be a part of, and how you want to be inspired and intellectually challenged. As you consider the intellectual experience and your eventual career, no doubt your choice of major plays a major (no pun intended) role in how you set the scene.

While the choice of major doesn’t feel difficult for some students, it’s a daunting task for others. When should you start thinking about it? How certain should you be? How do you narrow your choices? These are all important questions. The good news is you can answer some of them before you get to college. You won’t have all your answers until you get there, but you can set yourself up to narrow down your options and find a school that will facilitate your exploration.

Read About Different Topics

Reading is a great first (and hopefully continuous) step to learning what careers and concepts hold your interest. If you’re early in your high school career, perhaps set a goal of reading a book a month or every other month, along with some regular periodicals and/or relevant social media accounts to follow. Reading not only informs you but also makes you more fluent in your topics of interest for your college interviews and essays. You need to build your knowledge base for the admissions process, and this isn’t something you can do at the last minute.

Take Online Classes That Pique Your Interest

Online classes are a great way to further your exploration of topics that pique your interest. Now you can determine whether it’s a passing interest or something you might want to pursue at a higher level. Many free online classes allow you to delve deeper into topics and get a sense of what dedicated study could look like.

Deepen Your Exploration

From there, you can start integrating your interests into more formal classes at school or on college campuses over the summer, and you can also start getting practical experience through internships and extracurriculars. Now you’ll have several experiences to draw on to help you decide your major and to reference for your college essays. By the time you apply, you really should have narrowed down your choice of major to a top two or three.

You may end up doing something completely different, but you need to be able to make a compelling case for yourself in some subject areas and discuss how you arrived at that. Again, colleges want to see that you’re a person of initiative who has used the available resources around you to discover yourself and what you want to pursue.

Demonstrate Your Curiosity

Colleges don’t expect you to have everything figured out by the time you apply. But they do expect you to have explored your interests, demonstrating your intellectual curiosity. They’re looking for students excited to take advantage of their academic offerings, and the best way for them to know whether you’re likely to do that on their campus is if you’ve done it in the past.

College is where the rubber truly meets the road. By narrowing down your options and hopefully choosing to attend a university that gives you the freedom you need to explore, you should be able to make that exploration an exciting part of your four-year experience.

Take Your Time If You Need To

A lot of the same principles apply in terms of experimentation and exploration. If you’re truly uncertain of your major while applying, then you probably need to choose a school with lots of freedom to explore and only decide on your major in your second or third year. If you’re very certain, you can apply directly to relevant programs.

But it’s still good to delve into a few other topics at first just to see how you either may explore them more in-depth later or perhaps how you can add skills and ways of thinking to your eventual major. After all, creativity and writing are great skills to have for scientists and engineers, just as quantitative and methodological thinking can be useful to architects and history majors.

Embrace the Journey

The key here is to embrace this as a journey of self-discovery that will continue through college and into your career. But it’s the openness to that journey that will define how anxiety-inducing or how exciting it can be. By learning how to experiment and explore in high school, you’ll be a pro in college and ready to find your path to a successful and, most importantly, fulfilling career.

Looking for more expert guidance? Our IvyWise counselors work with students on all aspects of college admissions preparation, including narrowing down your choices for what to major in. Contact us today to learn how we can help you achieve your educational goals.

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