Originally posted March 31st, 2014, reviewed 2017
A guideline to help figure out what route to take in your college years based off the experience of yours truly.
The college major. Your conversational starter, your ice breaker, your identifier. The one thing that will define your college career as it appears on your diploma.
But how can you know what direction to go? Out of so many different options which one (or ones) make the most sense for you?
Maybe you know exactly what you want to do. Maybe you’ve known since your were 3 years old. But maybe you don’t. Either is fine! But in case you have reservations, I’m sharing my thoughts and devised a bit of list to help those who are seeking find a direction to go in.
This is to help those who are struggling to find a major figure out how to go about it. This is not specifically how you should pick one, just some ideas to consider. There are no rules.
What are your interests?
Alright, this seems pretty obvious. I mean you should do what you like, right? But think about your answers to this question as if they were to appear on an application. Interests include; sports, drawing, hiking, reading, base jumping…I have no idea what you people are into. But they don’t really sound like college majors. So, if no major sticks out to you right away, think of your favorite subjects and favorite activities. How do they relate and how can you bring those together? There might be a major that stands out as one you may not have thought of before.
What are you good at?
When I was little, I was really into aeronautics and space related things. But as I got a little older I realized something. I don’t like math and I’m not that talented in relation to it. So doing something engineering related wasn’t really in the cards for me.
HOLD ON RIGHT THERE THOUGH. I am not at all saying if being an engineer is your dream, but you aren’t amazing at math you should give up on it. If you know that is what you want, work your ass off and go get it. Kick math’s butt.
But but if your direction isn’t so clear cut, you can find yourself at least a temporary place in subject you’re more interested in and with things you understand and have a natural inclination for. Even if it’s not what you end up doing in the long run, choosing something based off general interest and skill can at least get you moving in the right direction rather than picking at random and you’ll most likely do well in those classes. You can take some time to figure it out that way.
Be a little brave, and experiment.
Even if it takes you a little longer to graduate.
There are really no hard and fast rules for “time spent” in college anymore. Sometimes you’re there the traditional 4 years but maybe you’re only there two. Maybe you’re there eight. What matters is that you’re getting to where you feel you need to go.
My college roommate is a lovely example of this. She is so intelligent and wonderful, but a lot of her high school career was planned for her. So when she got to college, she was lost. She tried so many majors; biology, hospitality, finance, and maybe other ones that I can’t remember. But she knew she would never know or be satisfied unless she actually tried on every shoe, so to speak. Yes, she’s graduate a year later than expected. But is she secure in what she wants? Yes she is. No questions, doubts or regrets.
Now if you’ve know exactly what you wanted to do since birth, I still say experiment a little. I’m not saying you have to outright change your major, but take a class that sounds interesting, even once. You never know.
What can you see yourself doing as a real adult in the real world?
I’m not a big fan of the “where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years” because I’m not a person who is good at looking at specifics when it comes to my future.
I’m “focus on the now” kinda gal.
But I have pictured, the big picture, of what my adult life could be like, because it doesn’t need to be specific. It just needs to have a general feel. What kinds of things do you see? A family? Being totally invested in a career? Traveling the world? Use these visions of the future to help guide you to a major that can make these less dream and more reality.
How much are you willing to work in college?
While no major is better than any other, there are differences in how much the workload is, or how intense they will be. And some people really thrive on the non-stop, while others need life to be a little more chill. Nothing wrong with either.
There are majors that are higher in intensity and a bunch that are lower. Intensity does not mean easy or hard, it means more time invested into a single entity. It just means that someone who is a engineering major probably has to spend more time (literally, most schools have it as a 5 year program now) than someone who is a religious studies major. It just depends on how well you know your own work ethics and how much of “the college experience” you feel you need.
Is there a specific career path you want to take?
Some majors matter when it comes to what you want to do, and sometimes they don’t matter in the slightest. Medical school and law school don’t really give extra consideration to what your major is as long as you have certain pre-reqs and testing in place. But if you want to go into televised journalism, a physics major isn’t going to help with that. You also need to do research on your career goals. Is it really what you expected? Are the classes something you truly enjoy? Think about it, do your research, get experience.
Do you need to go to grad/professional school to make your major work?
Working off the last questions, med school and law school aren’t picky about majors. There are certain majors that make it easier to cover what you need for these types of schools, but in the long run your major isn’t as important. So if you plan on being a doctor, you don’t need to sweat the major as much.
But say you want to be an archaeologist, maybe a biologist, perhaps a college professor. Your undergraduate major alone won’t get you anywhere you want to be. To have any successful in that field, you at least need to have a masters in it. Are you ready to go the distance? Did you know you had to go further?
Don’t let your past get in the way.
I spent most of my education doing art. When I went to college, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor which is a complete 180. A lot of my high school friends seriously questioned me and said if I gave up art I “was wasting my talent” and that there was no way I would do well in the sciences. I’m not friends with them anymore. But the point being is that you can’t take what you once were and think you always need to be that. You need to do what’s right for you, even if that means you change.
And changing is part of growing up, as mushy as that is.
Don’t let anyone make the choice for you.
During college, I met more than a few people who were completely miserable in their major. When asked why they don’t just change a lot of the answers were “Well I told my parents I wanted to do this already”, “My parents won’t pay for my anymore if I don’t do this” and finally “Well I don’t want to disappoint anyone.” Is this worth hating your entire college experience? I personally say no, it’s not. If you disappoint yourself, then you’ve disappointed the most important person in your life. Choose a major that makes you happy.
Do what you want.
If you’re reading through this and thinking “Stop telling me what to do Sass!” then don’t listen to me. I’m no expert. But the most important thing you ever do in college is to choose what you want. No other time in your life will you have the freedom you have during college and you should take advantage of that. You have the right to be passionate, excited and happy in college so choose a major you love.