A Practical Guide to Picking a Major in College

So, you’ve been accepted to a school and you’re ready to start your new life as a college student. But what’s your major? If you’re not sure yet- you’re not alone. More than 10% of incoming freshman students are entering college undecided, and the numbers are increasing each year.

Why are there more undecided students?

Views on the purpose of going to college have changed a lot over time. As the number of college students is increasing, and earning a college degree becomes more of a necessity in the job market, students are applying whether they’re set on a major or not. At the same time, college is now viewed as more of an all-around life experience, rather than just an academic one, and society is more accepting of the idea of “finding” yourself through this college experience. Through classes, advisors, and internships, students can decide on a major by the beginning of their sophomore year. Besides, the students who take the extra year to decide tend to stick with that major more often. Remember- don’t panic! There are plenty of adults with college degrees who still aren’t sure of what they want to do.

How do you get started?

The first step to finding a major is to evaluate your strengths and interests. While money is often a big factor in deciding your major, your career path should be focused on something that really interests you, and then you can decipher how your choice will fare in the job market afterward. There are some online quizzes you can try which can be a helpful start. Second, visit your co-op/internship office on campus. An advisor there can provide you with some tests which will help you choose a career path that’s best for you, and then help you find a related internship, co-op, or summer job. Another option is to take a career course at school- some colleges offer them for free! This is a great way to get professional advice on making your career choices, and help you come to a decision more quickly The third step is finding an internship in a related field. Internships are crucial in testing whether you’re really interested in a particular career. While a certain profession may sound great in theory, you may find that it’s not what you expected.* While sifting through the local newspaper’s “wanted” ads is one way to find a job, don’t forget that your college has hundreds of connections to credible companies in the area, and you should use your school resources to your advantage.

  • It also makes sense to have a few internships under your belt before graduating from college, as it will greatly influence where, and how quickly, you’re able to find a job after graduation. Lastly, be realistic. Do your research on the job market and on what kind of sacrifices you’re willing to make for your career. Here is a list of questions to get you started:

    • Is there a great need for your profession in the current job market?
    • What about the future job market?
    • What is the average income for an entry level position in your chosen field?
    • What about someone with 5 years experience?
    • How much time would you need to dedicate to your profession?
    • Does your profession require you to travel often?
    • Do you feel your strengths coincide with your chosen profession?

    All of these questions will help you be realistic about what kind of lifestyle a particular profession entails. For instance, if you want to be a doctor because you like to help others, but are not interested in science, then maybe social work is a better path for you. Lastly, don’t be afraid to change your mind. College is an excellent time to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life, and there are hundreds of professors, advisors, and employers who can help you get there.