How To Choose The Right Major

How To Choose The Perfect Major In College

If you’ve been following my blog for a while now (well, hello again!) you probably know that I changed my major like six times over the course of three semesters. It was annoying and sometimes tiring, but admittedly exciting to get to dip my toe into other fields. But every twist and turn has led me to the field I’m studying today: Journalism. Sure, I wish I had somehow known that I’d be a Journalism major from the beginning so I could’ve saved myself from struggling through classes I hated, but I guess sometimes you have to stumble a little before you get it right.

In high school, you don’t learn how to choose the right major, unfortunately. And while there is no magical formula where you plug in x and out pops your perfect major, there are some things for you to consider in order to make the decision a lot easier.

First thing’s first…

Don’t pick a major just because all of your friends picked it, or because you think you’ll be thought of as “less smart” for choosing something else. Someone else might suck terribly at something you’re really good at, and vice versa. There will be a lot of people on campus who bash majors that they think are “easy.” If you ever find yourself in a situation where someone is crapping all over your major, you should either ignore them or tell them where they can stick their opinion. Yeah, I went there.

Oh, and another thing…Can we all agree once and for all that there is NO SUCH THING as an “easy” major???? Thanks. Now, onto the tips for choosing the perfect major!

1. Consider your hobbies and interests.

Do you love sports and have always been interested in healthcare? Maybe you’d like a career in sports medicine. Make a list of all of your hobbies or interests if you have absolutely no idea where you should start. For me, I’ve always loved writing, and I love reading magazines and doing all things beauty, so I want to have a career as a writer in the magazine industry. Remember to consider clubs or organizations you were part of in high school, and things you like to do in your free time.

2. Think about what you’re good at. 

I’m absolutely horrendous at math, so I have no idea what possessed me to think that I’d be good at economics. If you’re really good at getting people to listen to you on Twitter or Instagram, consider a career as a social media coordinator for your favorite company. If you took your high school robotics team to championships, consider something in the computer science field. And if you swear up and down that you absolutely aren’t good at anything, keep looking! Everyone’s good at something. 

3. Do you want to have the chance to travel? 

Lifestyle is an important aspect to consider when deciding on a major, because different fields foster different schedules. While there are many other important factors to consider, the opportunity to travel is a huge one that many people think of first. A doctor may not travel to five different countries over the course of a year, but a journalist, especially a foreign correspondent, most likely would. If traveling while working is important to you, be sure to consider which fields allow this type of mobility so you have an idea as to what you should study.

Related: How To Travel Cheaply In Your 20’s

4. Consider whether you want a set work schedule or a more unpredictable one.

I know nothing’s set in stone, and we don’t hold the crystal ball to our futures, but thinking about how you’d like to work is another important lifestyle factor that can help you decide on a major. Maybe you like the rush of being pulled away at a moment’s notice to do something incredible. Or maybe you prefer having a set, 9-5 so you can make time for other obligations. Or maybe you like the idea of being your own boss and setting your own work schedule.

5. Make a list of things you hate.

I know this sounds strange, like why would you need to be reminded that you hate something…but this can help you rule out majors that right off the bat are not right for you. Do you hate art and drawing because you were never good at it yourself? You probably wouldn’t want to study it then. If you hate math and science (like me) stay away from any major that says applied math, statistics, finance, the science of anything, and most things ending in -ology. If you hate dogs and cats (hard to believe, but there are in fact people who dislike animals) I doubt you’d be happy as a veterinarian.

6. Do you want the opportunity to work on something  you’re passionate about?

Most people have causes that they’re passionate about—social work, animal rights, environmental issues, etc. And using those passions can help you settle on your perfect major. Don’t be afraid to really dig deep. And it doesn’t hurt to talk to an advisor. They know the school’s programs inside and out, and can tell you if there’s a major that suits your passions.

7. Look into potential careers in the field. 

This was my favorite thing to do in high school when it came to thinking about what my major would be. I’d research careers that I could have if I studied a certain field, and if it sounded good to me, I’d pick it. If you want to study computer science, look at the various options for jobs and see if there are any that click with you. Same goes for if you want to study marketing or history or english. However, don’t think that the options Google lists out for you are what’s set in stone. Nowadays, you never know where you could end up! My class once went on a trip to BuzzFeed’s New York City headquarters (Yes, BuzzFeed) and we met a guy who works on those addicting to watch Tasty videos but he didn’t even major in Journalism or Video Editing or anything—he was an Engineering major!! Crazy, right?

8. Consider shadowing a professional. 

This is a great way to figure out if you’d truly enjoy a career in a certain field. Can you wake up every morning and put a smile on your face when you walk into your place of work, ready to take on your challenges? Hands-on experience will tell. It gives you the opportunity to see a day in the life of a professional. Maybe after you shadow a marine biologist you realize that this isn’t the field for you. It’s okay—it’ll save you a ton of time and energy.

9. Get an internship or take a summer workshop.

I know you’re thinking that you haven’t had any relevant experience so you can’t possibly get an internship, but on the contrary, there are so many opportunities in various fields opening up for high school graduates and underclassmen. You just have to be willing to do some research and email a few people. Interning is a great way for you to get an inside look at the industry you want to be part of. If you can make it through the summer and come out loving every minute of what you did, maybe you should consider studying for that career.

Related: 10 Questions To Ask Before You Begin An Internship

10. Research your college’s programs.

A quick Google search of your college’s majors should give you a list of all the degree programs. There’s nothing wrong with running your finger down the list and stopping at the names that jump out at you. Click on those programs and read more about them. Find out what the classes will be like and what the program will focus on. Is there room to adopt a concentration or specific track within the program? Is there the opportunity for independent study? Also feel free to ask your advisor these questions.

11. Ask upperclassmen for insight. 

Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to grab someone’s attention and get them to talk to you. If you exchanged names with the senior Biology major who stood behind you in line for mac and cheese, shoot them a friend request and pick their brains for insight into the program and what they want as a career. I know a lot of people are selfish and don’t want to help others, but if you’re lucky enough to meet someone who would love to see you succeed even though they have no idea who you are and don’t owe you anything, hold onto them as a mentor.

12. If you aren’t sure, add a minor first. 

Minors are safe because if you later on decide that you want to adopt the field as a major, you’ve at least already completed a nice chunk of the courses because you added it as a minor first. And contrary to what we all thought in high school, your major and minor DO NOT have to be related! While having your major and minor as closely related as possible is a prudent move, having a minor that has nothing to do with your main field of study can help you become a little more well-rounded. Plus, it’s another way to explore other interests. You may be the only Psychology major with a Dance minor on campus, but who cares as long as you enjoy them both!

What are you studying in college? What are your tips for picking a major? 

Related: How To Make Class Enrollment Less Stressful



What To Do If You Want To Change Your Major

6 Things To Do If You Want To Change Your Major

Throughout the course of my three years of college, I’ve changed my major around half a dozen times. I’ve gone through thinking I know what I want to do, making a plan for that career, looking into classes for my schedule, and then deciding that I don’t want to do it anymore more times than anyone’s probably willing to listen to me babble on about. It’s usually at the end of the semester that most people decide they want to change their major because by then, they have gotten a taste of a few classes for their current major and they’re in the process of deciding whether that taste is bitter or sweet. If you’re like me and you love feeling in control of everything, then feeling uncertain of your current major probably feels slightly troubling and even stressful. Plus, not knowing what you want to study anymore doesn’t really make for a great conversation at the dinner table with your parents… Fortunately, here’s how you can handle this in an organized and composed manner.

1. Ask yourself: Why do you want to change your major?

I don’t think that simply disliking one class or disliking one professor is enough to force someone out of a major. Disliking half the classes in the program, however, is another story. Every class is a lot of work, but the part of you that enjoys doing it is what makes it worth it. If you aren’t good at a subject, this may also be a reason to change your major. I started my freshman year as a Health Science major on the pre-med track because I thought I excelled at science and would be successful studying for a profession in health care. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. I did decently in Chemistry, survived two semesters of math, struggled through two semesters of chem lab, and completely screwed up biology. I simply wasn’t as good at science and math as I thought I was and that made me miserable, but that’s okay. I feel like a lot of pressure on changing your major comes from the way your peers might perceive you for doing so. My school focuses heavily on math, science, engineering, and computer science, and it’s pretty easy to think that you’ll be considered “less smart” because non-science majors are “easy.” I say, give ’em the finger and move on. Your major isn’t supposed to ~impress~ anyone. Also, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN “EASY” MAJOR. Likewise, don’t feel like you need to switch to a major that’s considered more “prestigious” at your school. Bottom line, make sure you’re changing your major for the right reason.

2. Look for a major that shares some classes/pre-requisites with your current major.

One concern a lot of people have when trying to change their major is that they’ll basically be starting from scratch again. Looking into majors that also require one or two classes that you’ve already taken is a good way to not feel like you’re completely starting over. Maybe you took an intro level history course as per your school’s curriculum requirement and you want to start studying history. This is a good starting point when looking to change your major. But sometimes, we might make a change that’s COMPLETELY different and we have no choice but to start from scratch. This was totally the case with me when I declared journalism as my absolutely final major, but I’m glad I made the switch because (and this is going to sound totally sappy) I’m studying something I love.

Related: How To Create The Perfect Class Schedule

3. Talk to people who are studying what you’re thinking of studying.

Ask them what they learn in the classes they’re taking, how they plan to use the major after graduation, etc. Of course, you probably shouldn’t let your decision ride on just one person’s thoughts so try to talk to as many people as you can to get an idea of what you can expect and see if this is a major you’re still interested in studying. Be on the lookout for ice cream socials and other events designed to get people in the major together. If you can attend, this is the perfect place to talk to multiple people!

Related: 10 Secrets For Making New Friends In College

4. If you aren’t sure about another major, declare it as a minor first.

I always tell people to dip their toes in it first by declaring it as a minor if they’re REALLY interested in the subject. From there, you can declare it as a major later on if you really want to, and you’ll already have a good chunk of the major completed. When I was in high school, I used to think that your minor HAD to be related to your major, but that’s not the case at all. You can be a Biology major and a Spanish minor; a Journalism major and an Art minor — I love that there are so many combinations!

5. Don’t compare your progress with anyone else’s.

This is super important when deciding that you want to change your major. Depending on when you decide to change your major and how much of the program you have to complete, you may be a bit behind. You may not be able to graduate in the time that you initially wanted to. You may also find that you need to take a winter or summer class to “catch up.” Let me tell you, even just one three-week class over the winter can make a huge difference, especially if it’s a pre-requisite for a lot of other future classes. Thinking about how ~that~ person is a sophomore taking 300-level classes, and how ~that other person~ is going to graduate early is only going to harm your progress. Focus on YOU and what YOU need to do.

6. Make an appointment with your advisor.

If you don’t yet know what major you want to switch to, see your advisor. He or she can talk you through what major might be a great fit for you. If you know what major you want to switch to, see the advisor of that department. They can determine which classes you can take over the winter or summer intersessions, if you need them. Advisors are really great for helping you see both the big picture and the little ones within the big one. They can tell you exactly which classes to take every semester until you graduate, and they can help you plan the best way to help you accommodate any minors or double majors, and other things that might come up. If you only decide to do one thing on this list, it has to be seeing an advisor! If you aren’t sure what questions to ask an advisor when you see one, here are some for you to jot down:

  • Will I need to take a summer/winter class?
  • Which classes in the program are available during the summer/winter?
  • Are online classes available?
  • Will I still be able to graduate in the time I expected?
  • Are there any joint-degree programs available for this major?
  • Does this major require any concentrations that I should be aware of?
  • Is it possible for me to take pre-requisite classes as co-requisites with other classes?

That last one is my favorite question to ask my advisor because it helps me take as many classes as I can each semester. Of course, I always consider whether or not I can handle the course load before I do it. Another thing to consider discussing with your advisor would be waitlists. If there are closed classes that you need to take, make sure you can either get on the waiting list or have your advisor throw you in.

What are you studying in college? Have you ever changed your major?