Choosing a major can seem like one of the most stressful decisions to make once you become a college student. With several different options and career paths to take, it can all seem a bit overwhelming. While it can be a daunting task, don’t think that you need to know what you want to do as soon as you graduate high school. In fact, more than half of all college students change their majors at least once, and most of these students change it at least three times before graduating college. Having a solid understanding of what a major is and what it means is an important first step in confidently selecting the best one for you – and your future.
What is a major?
A college major is a field of study in which you take the most classes to develop the greatest depth of knowledge in a specific area. It’s not the only subject you’ll be learning in college, but it is the subject to which you’ll be devoting the most time. The major you select can affect several aspects of your college experience, including the friends you make, the professors you form relationships with, and the outside concentration or number of electives you can take.
Within your major, you will have certain required classes. This strict list of necessary classes could mean that you may see several of the same classmates day after day for many semesters. For many students, this core group of people is most likely going to play a big role in your study and social life. Seeing them all the time, forming study groups, and sharing interests can make it easy to form close friendships. Don’t forget to reach out to your professors, as well. Forming a professional relationship with those in your possible career field can help you with landing an internship, and even a job, after graduating.
Your college major may also determine the number of free hours you have to spend on elective courses. The number of credit hours needed to graduate is typically the same regardless of your major, but each major may call for a different number of required credits. More credits spent on your courses for your major means fewer free credits to spend on other classes that also interest you. Many majors also require an outside concentration, or a declared minor, so be sure to check with your college’s guidelines when planning out your courses each semester.
Is your major your career?
Not necessarily. Some majors are career oriented while others may have little to do with any one specific career (and that’s not a bad thing). Most majors, especially in the liberal arts, equip you with skills that can be applied to a wide range of careers. For example, students majoring in English can do more than just teach the subject at a high school or college. English majors can apply their skills to editing at a publishing company, writing speeches for political candidates, or even continue their education to pursue a career as a lawyer. Regardless of the specific material covered in your major, you’ll have the chance to develop skills to think critically, organize and articulate a compelling argument, manage your time, and understand complex relationships. Many employers cite these skills as the most important when hiring, and several will offer to teach the hard skills of the position to the right candidate. Interestingly, many medical schools actually encourage future applicants to major in a non-science field to round them out as better critical thinkers and doctors.
On the other hand, there are certain majors, such as engineering and nursing, that equip you with a specific skill set for certain careers. These majors typically have lower unemployment rates compared to liberal arts majors, but the skills acquired tend to have a lower transferability. These types of majors are best for students who know exactly what career they want.
Explore Your Options
Although an important one, your major is just a single piece of your life in college and career preparation. It influences many aspects for your future, but it is not the ultimate governing factor in your college experience or which careers are available to you. Be sure to explore your interests, intern within your field of study, or volunteer in something completely different. College is your time to discover what you are passionate about. So, don’t feel limited by your major, and instead let it open a world full of new and exciting opportunities.
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