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  • Writer's pictureChris Tamis

How am I supposed to pick my major?

Updated: Dec 7, 2023


One of the most common questions I receive every application season concerns choosing a college major. There are a few students I work with each year who have a definite career goal in mind that makes selecting an academic field a little easier. The majority, however, are what I deem “explorers” and aren’t quite sure what they would like to major in. The big question is, “What if I can’t decide what I want to major in before I go to college?” The good news is that many new first-year college students enter each year as “undeclared majors.” Studies have shown that approximately 70% of students change their majors at least once, with many more making multiple adjustments over their college years. Additionally, many schools will not allow you to declare a major until after your first year.

Suppose you are considering certain specific programs (engineering, pre-professional, nursing, PT, PA, education, architecture). In that case, you will need to be much more aware of a school's requirements for entry into that particular program. For example, it is challenging to transition from an undeclared liberal arts major to a chemical engineering student in your junior year. The first year is designed to allow you to explore your options by taking varied prerequisite classes (intro classes in psych, economics, literature/writing, physical science, and math). The obvious concern here is, if you are undecided, make sure you review each school's available majors to see that there are options that interest you. Some smaller schools will have limited choices and ultimately present a problem if you want to major in a field they do not offer.

Here are a few tips to help you figure out what you might like to major in:

Explore your interests

What do you enjoy studying, and equally as important, what do you not like to study? What are your hobbies, passions, and "dream" careers?

Self-evaluate your strengths and weaknesses

This is an important step and one that requires honesty and realism. If

you think you might like to be an aerospace engineer but struggle with 

advanced math, this might not be the right major for you. Similarly, if you

are thinking about nursing but can't stand the sight of blood or studying

biology, this will present a problem.

College is hard

Adding to the previous point, collegiate academics are much more challenging than high school. Adding to this is the increased social

pressures and newfound independence you will deal with. Certain

majors may sound very appealing, but the reality is that if you are not prepared to shoulder this increased weight, you will be changing your major.

Research careers and majors

Start to look at available majors at some colleges you are interested in.

Find some online surveys you can take that will help you hone in on a

potential major. Talk to family members who may have careers in areas that interest you.

Network your interests

Reach out to people who can provide insight. It's perfectly acceptable to contact professors and researchers at colleges you may be considering.

Take classes in your areas of interest

When scheduling your junior and senior classes, make sure you take courses that will provide insight into majors you may be interested in.

Talk to teachers, counselors, and current students

Don't be shy about saying that you are undecided. Talk to anyone who

can help. Current college students can be a great resource.

Is this a marketable major

A stark reality many students face upon college graduation is whether they are going to make any money. While you may really enjoy certain hobbies and interests, are you going to be able to make a living from them?

Have a backup plan

Even if you are currently 100% committed to a major, have some options in your back pocket if things don't pan out as expected. It's extremely important when researching schools to make sure there are additional majors available in case you change your mind.

Consider minors

Building on the last point, minors are a great way to explore your passions without committing to a major. They are also a terrific way to add marketability to your major. Sometimes, adding a business or economics-based minor to a STEM or liberal arts major can really increase your chances of getting a job post-graduation.

Am I done after four years?

Many majors require additional schooling after college graduation. A master's degree, Ph.D., or medical school may be in your future. Are you committed to this challenging path?

If you are still undecided on what to major in, that's okay! As I previously mentioned, you will have time to explore unless you enter a specific requiring you to be a first-year. Many colleges and universities now offer "exploratory majors," which allow you to get a glimpse of many different options without committing.

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