4 Steps to Picking a Major from Someone in your Shoes

Unfortunately, there is not one magic trick that will lead you to the major and career that is perfect for you. Finding one that is a good fit can be an extremely messy and stressful process. I would know, I’m still in the middle of that process. However, in my time exploring major options, I have found a few tips that have been helpful for me in narrowing down what I want to major in.

  1. Differentiate between what you want as a hobby and a career
    During my freshman orientation, I received one of the first and arguably best piece of advice from my ACES advisor. He gave my group a list of majors and told us to check the ones that we were interested in. I went through that list and checked off probably about 100 of them, ranging from Philosophy to Chemistry. When I met with him, he took one look at my list and laughed, saying  I had checked off the most out of anyone in my group. He started going through the list and explained that while I may be interested and passionate about a lot of these things, I should decide what I want to have as a hobby and what I want to do for my career. He gave the example of how he loved painting and was good at it, but when he took art classes in college, he hated it. He realized he didn’t have to major in art to still enjoy and appreciate it. This gave me a different perspective that I hadn’t considered before. Previously, I felt like I needed to include all of my interests, or at least as many of them as possible, in my major, and that really isn’t necessary. Yes, I like working with kids, but I don’t need to do that as my job. I’m fine just having my own children. Yes, I love theater, but I can just watch shows. I don’t need to dedicate my life to it. Yes, I love designing houses but it’s not something I want to do 5 days a week for the rest of my life. If you have a long list of interests like me, try going through it and sorting out which ones you want to do for the rest of your life and which ones you are fine with keeping just as a hobby.
  2. Make a list of your strengths, weaknesses, and interests
    Through my major exploration journey, I have done a lot of introspection. I evaluated my values, my past experiences, and my skills to figure out what major would be the best fit for me. What really helped me in organizing this was listing out all my strengths, weaknesses, and interests. I took this list and looked at potential majors as well as careers and analyzed which I would enjoy most and be the most successful in. For example, one of my weaknesses is that I am not the most creative person, so I decided digital media and design wouldn’t be the best major for me. While doing this, try not to listen to or follow what other people want you to do. Do what is best for you. Spend some time thinking about yourself and who you are as a person and use this perspective when exploring different majors and career paths.
  3. Look at the major requirements
    A great way to see if you want to major in something or not is to look at what classes you will actually be taking to complete that major. Make a list of a few majors that you are interested in and review the plan of study and their corresponding course descriptions. Highlight all the classes that sound interesting to you. Take a look at the list and see which major has the most highlighted classes. This process can help give you a better perspective of what the major is all about. That being said, if there is a major you are interested in that has some tougher classes, don’t rule it out. You are only going to be in undergrad for about 4 years. Grind through those hard classes if the outcome will be graduating with a major and career opportunities that you’ll love.
  4. Look at potential career opportunities
    If you find yourself becoming more interested in a major, look at what career paths are associated with this major. This can give you potential ideas of what you can do with that major after you graduate. Also, do some research on these career paths. Look up real job postings on job search engines like Handshake and Indeed.com and see if you are interested in the job description and tasks. However, keep in mind that one major is not necessarily connected to just one career path. While there are exceptions, you can get any job with any major. Graduates with degrees in Human Development and Family Sciences have gotten jobs in Finance. Graduates with degrees in Molecular and Cell Biology have gotten jobs in Marketing. Graduates with degrees in Mathematics have gotten jobs in art museums. Even with these positions, you are most likely not going to stay in the same position or career for your whole life. You are going to move around. By researching these careers, you can get some insight into what you can do for a career. 

These are only a few tips to narrow down your major list. The Major Experience has a lot more amazing resources that can help you with your search (my favorite is ThMajor Eliminator) 

I understand that picking a major is extremely stressful and overwhelming. It is ok. Take your time and thoroughly explore to find what is the best fit for you. You don’t need to find the ‘perfect’ major either, one might not exist for you. Just find a major that interests you and one that will make you happy and excited to learn. While you do have until the end of sophomore year to declare, still be diligent. Continuously introspect and research different careers and majors, even do a job shadow if you want. It seems very stressful now, but it will all work out in the end. 

I would encourage you to also make an appointment to talk to a Career Coach at the Center for Career Development to explore your major options further. 

By Sean Roach
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