Making a "Major" Decision
What's your major?
Feeling stressed out because you can’t answer that question yet? Don’t worry—you have lots of company! In fact, "undecided" is the most popular major on most campuses. Up to half of all college freshman aren’t sure what they want to study and 50%-70% of students change their major at least once (with many changing their minds multiple times before graduation).
That said, we know you’ll feel better when you’ve got this figured out and that’s why we’ve pulled together insights and questions from some education experts: U.S. News & World Report, Princeton Review, and BestColleges.com (be sure check out the Additional Resources section of the last link).
Do you need to choose a major right now? Some schools require you to make a choice right away and do things like match your housing to your major, but most don’t. And although it could take you a bit longer to graduate if you don’t pick a major freshman year, according to this research it might not be that big of a deal. There are a lot of classes that will count toward general education requirements, so it might be worth checking out a broad range of classes freshman year instead of rushing into something just because you feel pressured to make a decision.
What majors are you considering—and why? If you’re only thinking pre-med because three generations of your family have been doctors, that’s not a great reason to be thinking pre-med. Take an honest look at what interests you and what you’re good at. Considering a field you’re not that familiar with? Research it. Talk to people who work in the industry—LinkedIn can be a good way to find them—and to department staff at your campus. And be open to new ideas: there’s a big world out there!
Have you reviewed the classes and requirements you’ll need for this major? Check out the class requirements. Every major has some boring or super hard classes, but if none of the classes sound interesting, that’s a red flag. And look at the requirements for graduation. Is the schedule pretty rigid? If you miss a semester to, say, study abroad, will that cause you to miss prerequisites that are only offered one semester and delay your graduation? Will you need an internship to get a job—and will the program help you find one? And can you get a job in this field with just an undergrad degree or will you have to plan on grad school or beyond?
Is this field up and coming or fading fast? Don’t choose a major simply because it’s the “hot” field—that can change and picking something you have no interest in can mean years of regret and frustration. But consider whether it’s worth investing your time and money in a field where there aren’t a lot of jobs. Or a field where it’s really hard to support yourself. Sure, money doesn’t buy happiness but it does pay the rent! For great information about different areas of employment, including employment trends and salaries, check out the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Is there more than one way to accomplish your goals? Unless your area of interest is narrow and/or requires highly specialized training, you can probably get to it in a variety of ways. For instance, if you think you might like to work in some aspect of marketing, a degree in business, communications or journalism is an obvious fit. But some other degrees work well too (depending on your area of interest) like English, economics, art, social media, public relations, anthropology, psychology or statistics.
Is my college known for this field? Few schools have the resources to do a good job supporting every major. Clues that a program isn’t a priority: small staff, staff without the advanced degrees you’d expect or few classes to choose from. If this is the case, you might want to investigate other options at your school or even consider switching schools.
Need some suggestions of where to focus your studies? Take this quiz from Goshen College.
Do you need help paying for college? Learn how your local credit union can help! Use our Find a Credit Union tool to find a CU near you that offers the Student Choice private student lending solution.
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