By Bianca Black
Are you drawing a blank when it comes to the anticipated major question on your college apps? You are most definitely not alone! Choosing what to select as your anticipated college major on your college apps and beyond can be a huge stressor. Take some comfort in knowing what you list on your application or even declare once you get to college is not set in stone. “Undecided” is perfectly acceptable for the time being. You may feel the major you choose will dictate the rest of your life, but that’s not necessarily true. On the flip side of that, you will take lots of classes within your major, so make sure it’s something you enjoy and is practical in the job market. We’ve gathered some FAQs to help guide you through this (major) decision.
How do I decide what to major in?
A good approach to take when you are trying to decide your major is to work backwards and think of potential careers you are interested in. Once you have a short list of potential careers, you can do some research to find majors that align with those careers. Here are a few recommendations to help you find your ideal career/major:
Shadow professionals in a few careers that you are considering to get a feel for a “day in their life." This will allow you to see if this is something you envision yourself doing or something to cross off the list. If you are in high school, your counselor may be able to help you with finding these opportunities.
Pick the brains of those you are shadowing about what kind of college courses/major they recommend.
Visit your college career center early and often. They can provide you helpful resources like aptitude tests to show you what majors/careers may be a good fit for you based on your values, skillsets, and passions. It’s also good to establish a relationship with the career center because they’ll be helpful when it comes to look for an internship and eventually a full-time position.
Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook website. This provides a summary of each career, average salary, education requirements, job outlook, similar careers, and so much more!
Use your required general education courses and any elective hours you have to explore different academic interests.
Explore if your career options require graduate school. For example, if you plan to attend medical school or an MBA program after you graduate, you’ll want to research their prerequisite courses required for admission to ensure they are built into your academic plan.
When do I need to declare a major?
Typically, it’s safe to say sophomore year is when the final decision should be made, but each college and program is going to be a bit different. Your first year of college typically revolves around “general education” courses like Intro to Psychology, History, and Public Speaking so this gives you some flexibility and time to explore different major options. Your decision process may be sped up if you come to college with previous colleges credits, you choose a program with special admission criteria like an audition (i.e. music or theater), or if your major requires a separate application like many nursing programs.
What if I fall out of love with my major?
There comes a point in time where you have to fully commit to your major unless you want to be an undergrad for 7 years, which as tempting as it seems, isn’t necessarily the most practical, unfortunately. So, what do you do if the initial spark you had for your major isn’t there and you’re at the point of no return? Explore the different paths your major provides. You may have envisioned yourself doing one thing with your major and discover a completely different path. You may also be surprised to learn that according to the U.S. Department of Labor, people change career fields two or three times in their lives, so focus on the transferrable skills you can acquire that are valuable to any field you decide to pursue.
There’s no doubt that your major will shape your college experience. It’s an important decision that should be given lots of thought. However, there are so many other factors that contribute to post-college success outside of your major, so be sure to steps you can be taking now to be more employable after college.