Careers & Education

How to choose a major

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Knowing how to choose a major is at the root of every successful college career

Outside of a house, college has become one of the biggest expenditures most of us make. Inside of a house it’s pretty big too (thank you Groucho!). Because college is so expensive and so important to your future, choosing a major is serious business. Business or English, engineering  or history – choosing a career path can feel like a mystery when you’re a college freshman choosing courses or high school senior choosing schools.

Fortunately, there are numerous guidelines and people to help direct you on how to choose a major.

If you’re still in high school, a guidance counselor is a good person to talk to. In college, academic advisors, department chairpersons and even older students are good sources of information. It’s important to tell them as much as you can about yourself – what kind of job you might like to have, what your interests are, what subjects are your favorites, what subject do you do well or poorly in, what kind of hobbies you have that might make a good career, what kind of jobs you may have had, where you might like to live.

Be honest and be thorough – the more information they have about you, the better they can help you make your decision. Guidance counselors and academic advisors often have exams or questionnaires that can help pinpoint your interests and majors you might do well in. Outside of school, talk to adults who work in the fields you’re interested in, asking them how their made their own decision to enter them.

When should you choose a major? While some students know in high school or even earlier what career path they want to follow, most are more likely to have more than one in mind or possibly none at all.

If you’re in the later category, don’t panic! You don’t have to choose a major in high school or even during your fist years in college. In fact, it often helps to try a variety of courses to see what interests you. This can also help open your eyes to how difficult a career path might be once you get deeper into the subject matter. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind on a major – or even a school – as long as you’re prepared to accept that it could mean staying in school longer and incurring more tuition debt.

The advice given most often to help choose a major is “follow your passion.” When you are excited about a career, the obstacles seem smaller. Enthusiasm can help meet and beat challenges like finding ways to work while going to school, finding time to study extra hours for difficult subjects and finding a job once you graduate.

While the thought of paying for large student loans can be overwhelming, don’t let it intimidate you into choosing a major you may hate just because the salaries are high. Working in a job you love can give you the strength and endurance to meet your debts while keeping your sanity. And once the student loans are paid, you’re enjoyment will go up exponentially (ask a math major for an explanation).

Talk to a lot of people, ask a lot of questions, take your time and follow your passion. Do those and choosing your  major just might be one of the easiest decisions of your college career.

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