Whether they are still in high school or navigating their first year of college, many students wonder how to choose a college major that is right for them.
Choosing a college major is equally challenging and essential, especially if students have multiple passions or interests. Additionally, many students struggle to select a major because they don’t know what kind of career they want long-term.
While the major chosen ultimately will impact students’ future careers, it’s normal for students to take their time and use their college experience to inform this decision.
Let’s look at what choosing a college major means and how and when to do so, as well as other tips students can use to choose a major that is right for them.
What is a College Major?
A college major is a student’s main subject of study, in which they earn a degree.
Typically, students will discuss their interests and desired major through an assigned academic advisor (or their school’s academic advising center). This helps students understand the requirements of each major, select their courses within their major of choice, and encourage students in their development and academic success.
5 Tips for Choosing a Major in College
The question, “How to choose a college major?” often depends on each student’s goals, interests, and passions. However, there are a number of tips and questions they can ask themselves to determine the right college major for them.
1. Consider Your Interests.
Unsurprisingly, students do better in classes they are interested in. If you enjoy what you are learning and studying, you’ll likely stay more engaged in your classes, leading to better grades and relationships with your professors and peers.
Furthermore, your college major is meant to set you up for your future career, so you should choose a subject and career you can see yourself pursuing in the long term.
If you are struggling to know your interests or have too many, consider taking a personality quiz or joining clubs and organizations at your college or university. You may also begin your freshman year by taking various general education courses and electives, to explore different areas of study and see which appeal to you most. Not only will this exploration help you choose a major, but it can also give you a positive experience in college, pursuing studies you love.
2. Think Ahead to Your Career Goals.
Another effective way to choose a major is to consider your career goals. Where do you want to be in the next five or ten years? Do you want to manage people or be involved in world-changing research? Do you wish for a hands-on, creative profession, or does an administrative position appeal to you? Are you seeking a career working with people, or do you prefer a more independent role?
While some majors can lead to various careers, most are designed to prepare students for specific career paths or advanced study in their chosen field. For example, if you want to be a nurse, you must earn your nursing degree and use what you learned in that major to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
If you find yourself with multiple passions and career options, take a few classes in the relevant major and talk to students currently majoring in that field. Doing so helps you prepare for the coursework necessary to pursue the career of your choice.
3. Weigh the Salary Potential.
While money isn’t everything, students should consider how important salary and salary potential is to them.
If you want to make a high salary and be able to retire early, a career in a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related field might be the right choice. Conversely, if salary is less of a decision point, and you care more about impacting the world and the lives of others, you might be better suited for a career in human services or education.
Visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, where they regularly update their list of highest-paying occupations. Students should also keep in mind that just because a career boasts a high salary does not mean that alone will make them happy, so be sure you are also passionate about the work and career you wish to pursue.
4. Discuss Options with an Academic Advisor.
Academic advisors help students explore their career and personal goals by challenging, supporting, and encouraging students to actively participate in their learning, development, and academic success.
Thus, checking in with your academic advisor can be extremely beneficial when choosing a major. They’ve likely had the same or similar conversations with hundreds of students and can even offer information about majors you’ve not considered that align with your interests, passions, and goals.
Academic advisors help students achieve their academic goals by:
- Advising on course selection
- Assisting with adding and withdrawing from classes
- Counseling when students experience academic difficulties
- Navigating plans of study
- Referring students to campus resources if and when needed
- Serving as a support system
5. Don’t Rush to Make a Decision.
You are not alone if you struggle to decide and choose a college major. In fact, it’s for this reason that many colleges and universities will offer students to enter as undecided during their first year or enroll in a General Studies degree program.
General Studies programs, like the one at Goodwin University, embrace a broad-based education to teach students versatile skills, earn college credit, and explore their area of interest through a customizable degree plan that explores multiple topics of interest and aligns with their career goals. Options at Goodwin University include:
- Business administration
- Criminal justice
- Early childhood education
- Global studies
- Homeland security
Choosing a major is an important decision, so students should consider it carefully to ensure it will be a major and career they are passionate about in college and beyond.
Let’s crush your academic and career goals together!