Major Decisions

By Features Editor

A Villanova University student who decided to double major talks about what it's been like and why it's important to try courses in lots of departments.

An Ohio State University undergrad explains how she decided on an unconventional major that she hadn't even heard of when she applied to college.


More students share stories of how they chose their majors:

"I actually fell into my major by a happy accident. I came into college convinced I was going to be a neuroscientist—I was armed with a ten-year plan and had every expectation that this plan was inflexible and already perfect. Then I took a biology class and it all changed. Suddenly I was completely lost—my ten-year plan was smashed into ten thousand pieces and I began to randomly sign up for classes that sounded marginally interesting. My prospective major changed with surprising regularity, once every two or three weeks. Math, English, history, anthropology, political science; but none of them stuck. Spring semester of my freshman year I was having difficulties finding a class that fit into my already full schedule. I had always heard that the Wellesley economics department was outstanding, and my best friend was braving the most introductory microeconomics class that semester. So I signed up. It was literally a life-changing hour and ten minutes. And I distinctly remember calling my father after that first class and telling him, 'This is it!'"

-Libby Propp, Wellesley College

"I chose my major through the process of trial and error. If I was going to spend the rest of my life working in a career, I thought it had better be a job I was going to love. Turns out, I love psychology."

-Atia, New York City College of Technology



"I went into college thinking that I wanted to do psychology, but as I took some classes, I found business and art both very interesting. I didn't entirely lose my original interest in psychology, so I was very unsure of what I wanted to do. I did some research and took an introductory advertising class and I absolutely loved it."

-Katarzyna, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dennis DeTurck, Ph.D., dean of the college of arts and sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, explains what freshmen should know about college curricula.

We asked Katharine Harrington, dean of admission and financial aid at the University of Southern California, what advice she gives to students who aren't sure which major they want to pursue.



First and most importantly—relax! Being unsure about your college major is perfectly normal. In fact, students who think they know what major they will choose often change their minds. On average, college students in the U.S. change their major more than 2 times over the course of their undergraduate studies. So there is little, if any, inherent disadvantage for students entering college without being sure what major they want to pursue.

Second, give yourself time to explore and experience different fields of knowledge. There’s a lot out there, and it’s all just waiting for you. Don’t shortchange yourself by making your decision too quickly.

Third, remember that your undergraduate degree is probably not your final college degree. It is your foundational college degree. Why is this true? People of your generation will likely have 4 or 5 different careers in a lifetime. Most, if not all of you, will go to graduate school (at least once). This means that your undergraduate years are not the years to focus narrowly. This is the time to seek breadth as well as depth in your education.

My best advice to students who aren’t sure what major they want to pursue is this: "Find something you love. Find an area of study that interests and excites you, and major in that area. And also look for something that is far across the intellectual landscape from your major area of interest. Study that also. Take a minor or a second major in that other area so that you can experience the excitement of bringing multiple ways of thinking to bear on a particular issue or challenge." As a future leader of the 21st century, this is what you will be doing for the rest of your life. You might as well start in college.