The Major Choice

Young woman considering various careers

Here are some tips on choosing a college major.
Image: Shutterstock

Starting off, let’s be clear: Your major, while an important decision, does not define your entire future career. As many as 70% of American students in a four-year program will change their major at least once before graduation. It’s not a sign of failure or indecisiveness; it’s a fact that students, their interests, and their knowledge of themselves and their abilities evolve during their studies, and a changing major reflects only that.

You don’t have to choose one right away. Most universities have a whole slough of general requirements you have to get through and don’t require a declared major until you’ve piled up enough credits to qualify as a junior.

Common advice, especially coming from parents or people who have been out of school for a long while, is to pick a major linked to a lucrative potential career–biology for doctors, pre-law for lawyers, computer science for techie types. If you have a genuine career goal, it might be good to aim for that, though you might be surprised which majors lead where. Ask a sampling of people with jobs you want what they majored in. Ask them what they’d look for in a prospective employee’s educational background.

But since a major in which you don’t complete a degree won’t help you much, pay attention to your own skills and strengths. If research is impossible for you, avoid majors (and career paths) where it will be a focus. If writing is your strongest suit, seek out majors that focus on content creation. This is where waiting to declare can really give you an advantage: A year into college, you’ll know much more about what kind of student you are than you ever learned from high school.

In short, take your time with this choice. Take advantage of advice from people who know you as a student. Professors are great for this, and advisers literally are paid to help you make this choice. Choosing the right major, the right one for you now, will mean better grades, successful internships, and a much better sense of what you want going forward.

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