Choosing where and when to go to college might seem like the hardest decision of our young adult lives, but the question that follows can be even trickier:
What should I major in?
For many (including myself), the pressure of this question can result in sleepless nights, crumpled-up pros and cons lists, and hours upon hours of coffee-guzzling research. With so many options and so many career paths, how are we supposed to choose just one area of study?
But don’t fret. While this may seem like a daunting task, choosing a major can be really exciting, and I’m here to help you make the best of it.
From research tips to advice on following your passions, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about choosing the right major.
1. Evaluate your interests
Assessing your interests is perhaps the most important thing to do when deciding on a major. Try asking yourself: What do I like? What are the things in life that I feel most curious/passionate about? After all, your major will comprise of the bulk of your courses, and if you don’t feel interested in your classes, then college is going to be a pretty difficult thing to navigate.
However, evaluating your interests is a lot easier said than done. For one, you may be curious/passionate about a lot of different things. If this is the case, try narrowing it down by asking yourself: Could I see myself devoting a large portion of my life to this? Or is this an interest I can explore on the side? To get your thoughts organized, it can be helpful to write down a list of interests and scale them topically from “most interesting” to “least interesting.”
On an opposite note, if you don’t have any particular interest in mind, don’t be afraid to explore new options. Try talking to as many professionals as possible, and start researching different career paths — you never know what could spark your interest!
2. Evaluate your skills
While college is certainly an opportunity to build new skills and abilities, it can be helpful to assess your talents and skill-set right off the bat when choosing a major. For instance, if you have a knack for visual art, perhaps a more creative field would suit you well. Or if you’re a naturally gifted math student, maybe a career in STEM could be a good fit. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses can be a great way to start narrowing down some general fields of study. This way, college can provide the perfect forum to further advance your skills and build on pre-existing talents.
3. Explore your options as a freshman
Most universities offer a pretty relaxed schedule for freshman year, and many don’t even require you to declare a major until sophomore year. If that’s the case, take this time to sign up for as many classes as possible and explore different options! What better way to get a glimpse into a major than by starting with an introductory class
4. Research and connect with professionals
In today’s job market, the opportunities for a career are endless. The office environment is no longer the primary place of employment, and new and exciting options for work are popping up each day. So, when it comes to choosing a major, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Try exposing yourself to as many professionals and areas of study as possible. If you’re not sure what you’re interested in, or where you could see yourself after college, try opening yourself up to new fields. A good way to do this is by going to job fairs, talking to professors, or taking advantage of visiting professionals at your university. Don’t be afraid to talk to as many people as possible — and ask questions! Getting a better idea of what’s out there can help you narrow down your options for a major, and help you think about how you could utilize your degree in the future.
5. Don’t be afraid to follow a passion … even if it doesn’t “pay well”
If you’re choosing an unconventional major, you may face that condescending question of: “Oh, does that even pay well?” Don’t let this bother you! At the end of the day, it’s probably more important to be happy than rich, so if you have a passion in mind, don’t be afraid to explore it. As I mentioned before, it’s important to have an interest in your studies, and with the right ambitions and attitude, you can turn even the most obscure major into a good career. Just remember to work hard, and stay driven!
6. Don’t commit to something you’re not ready for
If you’re not certain you want to become a doctor, then it’s probably not wise to choose pre-med as a major. For most people, college is expensive, so it’s important to maintain some focus and practicality when choosing a major. After all, realizing you have piles of student debt and feeling more confused than ever is probably not the feeling you want to have when you graduate. So don’t be rash in your decision to choose a major. Try not to choose something that you might regret later in life, particularly if it’s going to cost you!
7. If you’re really unsure, try for something a little more broad
If it comes time to choose a major and you’re still not sure what you want to study, don’t worry. Many, many students are in this position. The best thing to do is to choose something that you have a least some interest in, and keep it broad. For instance, majoring in something more general like history or English can be a great way to build researching and writing skills, which can be beneficial to nearly any career. So just remember: you don’t have to have a major that will set you up for a specific career. You can choose to study something that can help you in multiple facets, while giving you the freedom to explore multiple things in college.
8. Be practical, but think big!
When choosing a major, it’s good to be somewhat practical. You probably don’t want to run off and commit to something haphazardly, or choose something beyond your financial and practical capabilities. Remember to be thoughtful in your choice — go for something that you know you’ll enjoy, and that will set you up for a life after graduation. Taking a practical stance can be a good way to ensure you’re utilizing college to its full potential. That being said, don’t be afraid to think big! If you are ambitious and driven, you can make college work with any major! Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, and stay open to new or unconventional options.
While choosing a major might feel like a daunting task, it’s important to remember that it’s not binding! Your college major does not automatically determine your life for you; you may end up doing something entirely different with the skills you learn at school than what you thought! And if you’re really unhappy, don’t be afraid to change your major. It’s important to remain curious and excited about your studies, so don’t be afraid to alter some things in order to achieve that.
College is an exciting time to explore new options, build new skills, and expose yourself to new ideas. By taking full advantage of your resources, working hard and keeping a positive attitude, you’ll be sure to reach success in every major.
Natalie Colarossi is a journalism major and global studies minor working toward her bachelor’s degree at Ohio University. She is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has covered a number of topics including art, culture, politics, music, and travel. Her greatest passion and priority is to travel, and she hopes to experience as many places and cultures as possible.