10 tips to help you choose a college major

By Aubriana Loveland
02/12/2016
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How are you supposed to know what you want to do with the rest of your life when you've never had a "real job" before? No wonder 80 percent of U.S. students end up changing their college major. Yet your major will determine what you learn, the type of bachelor's degree you'll receive, and most likely your career path, so it's a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. Here are ten tips to help you choose the best major for you.

1. Make a list of possible college majors and career paths

Make a list of possible majors

  1. Write down all of the subjects that interest you.
  2. Under each of those subjects, list the college majors that coincide with them.
  3. Under each major, list all the possible careers paths.

Take advantage of the many websites designed to help college students research majors and careers, like Big Future, My College Options, and Schools.com.

2. Research majors, careers, and trends

Now that you have a list, it will be easier for you to evaluate all of the possibilities. What career paths are you interested in? Where can each major take you? What skills will you learn? Do you even want a career that relates to your major? Thoroughly research all your options to help narrow down your major. If a career path seems bleak and the required courses sound dry, then don't choose that college major.

Researching job market trends can help with your decision. For example, computer science, engineering, and medicine are rapidly growing fields, which may offer more job opportunities, making it easier to find a job after you graduate.

3. Keep an open mind, explore, and experiment

Be open to new ideas and potential career paths. Flexibility is important when it comes to selecting a college major. Don’t restrict yourself. Look at all your options. Take classes that you're curious about or seem interesting to you. If you’re like most people, you’re interested in more than one subject. So check out as many introductory courses as you can and use your elective credits to experiment with new subjects. Wondering what European history is like? Then take it. Exploration is what college is all about, and it can help you to hone in on a topic of interest, making the final decision a little easier.

4. Test-drive jobs and get work experience with internships and externships

Get internships and externships

College is nothing like the "real world." Sitting in an organic chemistry class will teach you very little about doing research as a profession. An internship or externship will show you how to apply various majors to the real world and give you a chance to see what a job is really like. You might find out that working in an office all day isn't actually like "The Office." Disappointing, I know. The more real-world work experience you can gain while in school, the more competitive you'll be and the more connections you'll have when it comes time to find a job.

5. The cost of college vs. return on investment

Do you care if your major doesn't lead you to a high salary? College isn't cheap, and you'll probably have student loan debt after you graduate. Student loans can take a big chunk out of your paycheck, so it's important to evaluate the cost of college against your potential salary.

6. Don't succumb to parental pressure

Don't succumb to parental pressure

Parents want their children to succeed and be happy, so they may try to give you advice or weigh in on your decision. Pressure from parents and family can be overwhelming at times, but don’t choose a college major just to please them. Remember, it’s your future and you get to decide what's best for you.

7. Talk to an advisor

Talk to an advisor

Talking to an advisor or counselor can be a huge help. They're experts at what they do, and they can make choosing a college major a much smoother process. This is a great opportunity to get an unbiased opinion and expert advice. They can also inform you of the requirements and prerequisites you'll need for each major and help you out with your class schedule, or your post-graduation plan.

8. Consider a minor or double major

Getting a double major, or declaring a minor allows you to focus on more than one discipline and expands your skill set, which looks great to employers and grad schools. If you're passionate about more than one subject, then double-majoring, or minoring, is a great option. Just keep in mind that double-majoring does require a lot of credits, so make sure you plan out each semester's class schedule to see if you can make it work. Double-minoring is also an option at some colleges and requires less credits than double-majoring.

9. Create your own major

Create your own major

Many universities offer an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree known as a Bachelor of Integrated Studies (BIS). This degree allows students to design a customized course of study by combining two or more majors into one bachelor's degree. A BIS is great for students who can't find the major they want at their school or who want to study more than one subject.

10. Don't be afraid to change your major

You don't need to know what you want to do with the rest of your life right away. College is your chance to discover your passion, and sometimes changing your mind  or your major  along the way can be part of the process. Over time, you'll learn what makes the most sense for you.

College is full of stressful decisions, but selecting a major doesn’t have to be one of them. Have fun, keep your options open, and take advantage of everything college has to offer!

A college job or internship is a great way to test-drive potential careers and gain work experience. Use our job and internship search to find the perfect opportunity for you.

All animations courtesy of Giphy.

About the author

Aubriana LovelandAubriana Loveland is a senior at Weber State University majoring in microbiology with an emphasis in public health. She loves writing macabre short fiction, reading, drawing, and watching movies. She hopes to become an epidemiologist and travel the world.

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