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How to Settle on Your College Major

Updated on June 9, 2014
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It seems like everyone around you knows exactly what they want to do, right? Kyle wants to be an economics major and work at a Fortune 500 company. Jill is going to major in international relations with a concentration in anthropology. And there you are, standing aside from the crowd, question marks swirling around your brain. You have no clue what you want to do for the rest of your life. It's quite a daunting task and a seemingly life-changing decision - choosing your college major. So before your panic attack has a panic attack, just breathe and take a minute to relax.

You must know that not everyone knows exactly what they want to do in life. Heck, even folks in their 40's are still trying to figure it out. At the same time, remember that your major is not set in stone. Eighty percent of US students change their major at least once and even some of those that graduate end up in fields not even close to the one they majored in at college. While settling on a college major is a relatively large decision, it s not a final decision. You are not handcuffed to your major, there is some wiggle-room. It is important, however, in order to maximize your college education, to take precautionary measures to decide on a major. Follow these steps to help you choose a major specific to your goals and life.

#1 Make a List of Your Interests

The first step is to determine what you may potentially be interested in. Whether you make a list of the classes you prefer (i.e. statistics, language and anatomy) or a list of activities you prefer (i.e. music, reading, writing) either will do. Just start that list and continue to add to it when you can. Do not think of anything else at first, simply what you like. If you cannot think of anything you truly like, make a list of what you do not like - careers you know now you would never want to do. Always keep this list in mind and go back to it whenever things seem to be confusing.

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#2 Do Your Research

This step is vital! Now that you have your list of interests, do some research to determine what potential careers involve those skills or activities. Proceed to investigate what you should then major in to achieve that career. If this method does not work for you, simply reverse it. After gazing upon your lists of interests you may realize you would love to major in linguistics because you loved your business and language class and writing is one of your favorite hobbies. Then, look into potential careers with a linguistics major and decide if that is something you want to do.

It is also important to do research on the current job market of that career and major. You may want to consider the chances of landing a job out of college with a certain major and the median income. As much as we all wish money was not a factor - simply put, it is. Choose a major that you are pretty certain will get you a job and ensure that you can survive with that jobs salary.

As stated before, a mjor is not set in stone. It is very likely you may graduate with a math degree and end up working in an environmental non-profit. So remember to keep your options open!

#3 Talk it Out

So, you've done your research. You've narrowed it down to a select few options and you're pretty certain that you are one step closer to settling on that college major. Now it's time to talk it over. Speak with your teachers, your guidance counselors and those in the field. Get their feedback and listen to their advice. Talking it out serves two purposes 1) You will receive input on your ideas from professionals who know a lot about the topic and 2) Talking it out may also help you reach a conclusion on what it is you want to do with your life.

Here are some things to consider asking:

  1. What skills are required to succeed in this major/career?
  2. What is the current and expected job market for this major/career?
  3. I know I want to ________, what is the best major for this career?
  4. What is your typical day like as a _________ (major/career)?
  5. What advice do you have for student in this major?

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#4 Consider Your College

That's it. You're 95% positive you've got the perfect major. It fits with your interests and your skills. You're excited for your classes and future career. Wait! There's one more thing. The college. You must consider what colleges provide this major. If it is business, marketing, math or the like, this step is very simple. Look into colleges that you're interested, colleges close by and colleges that have great programs in the major of your choosing. Ensure that these colleges that have the program you're interested in are colleges that you want to go to. While it is very easy to transfer colleges, for practicality purposes, look into this beforehand.

If you decide on a major that is a bit rare - geology, ocean archealogy, golf course management, jazz studies, etc - the colleges immediately narrow. Make sure that the colleges you are interested in have the program that you desire. If only 5 schools in the country offer the bakery science major, you want to actually like one of those colleges. While your major is a gigantic driving force in your future career, the college itself also holds some weight of its own.

#5 Follow Your Heart

At the end of the day, you need to be doing something that will make you happy. You'll be in school for 4+ years and do not want to spend those years wallowing in your own sadness counting down the days until graduation. While money is a factor in modern life, so is your health and happiness. Consider all your interests, major options, career options and college choices to maximize your success for settling on a college major.

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