Ah, choosing a major. That dreaded part of your college career. The question that is asked by relatives and strangers alike when they hear that you’re in college. And if your choice is a bit unusual, the follow-up question often is “What are you going to do with that?”
It is a general assumption that your major will influence your career, but the good news is, it really doesn’t have to define your life. Did you know that Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives fame was a kinesiology major in college?
If a major does not necessarily prepare you for a career in that field, then why do colleges insist that you must pick one? The obvious answer is to study something you’re interested in. Pursuing a major also include other benefits: Since you must pass all the coursework required for a major to be awarded a degree upon completion, you must have a strong commitment to your major. Second, you will also learn to build expertise in whatever field you choose. Both commitment and expertise are key ingredients to succeed in the real world.
Image courtesy of Marquette LaForest on Flickr
Now that I’ve given you the necessity of choosing a major, let’s get started on picking one!
1. Know what’s out there
Familiarize yourself with all the majors offered at your school. The number of majors available can range anywhere from 10 at a small school, to 200 at a big universities. Even if none of the 200 satisfies your interest, there is often an option to create your own major. You’ll also have other options such as doing a double major or a concentration in addition to your major.
Take some time to learn about the majors offered by looking at course catalogs and departmental websites. Pay attention to what the major requirements are. Remember that picking a major is as much about commitment as it is about your interest in the field. Don’t just pick a major because it “sounds cool.” If you don’t like math and science, being a pre-med may not be the best idea.
2. Sample a variety of classes
This may sound obvious, but I want to stress that there’s more than taking classes based on your interest. After flipping through the course catalog, you would ideally have idea if what you wanna take. But remember to really consider subjects that look unfamiliar at first.
Most of us have favorite subjects in high school, of which we may rely on to pick courses and major, but the course offering of high school often does not reflect the full course offerings in college. Don’t rule out subjects you haven’t seen before. An elective in ceramics may just be the right class you need to decide that studio arts is the major for you.
3. Utilize school resources
Based on your course selection and major, you are usually assigned an advisor, often a professor in the major you are interested in. An advisor is the designated resource for all your ‘major’ needs, but if you are thinking about changing your major, don’t be afraid to reach out to other people.
Look for the people with experience in fields you’re interested in. It could be a professor whom you have taken classes with or plan to take classes with in the future. Professors’ bios, office hours and emails can be easily found on the department’s website, or you can often find out via your advisor or the Office of Student Affairs. All in all, the resources available in a college, from professors to classes to career services, are there to help you pick your major and to go through with it, so why not taking advantage of what’s being offered?
Choosing a major and sticking to it is no easy feat (after all, that’s why the college system requires a commitment of four years on average). Most colleges allow the option of changing your major multiple times. If you change your major in junior year or later, you may have to take some additional time to complete the requirement before graduation, but that is still an option.
And most importantly, remember that settling down with a major, even though it does not feel perfect all the time, is not the end. College, after all, is just four years of your life, so your major shouldn’t dictate what you do for the rest of it.
How is your experience choosing a major in college? Let us know in the comment section!