After someone asks where you are going to college, they are bound to ask you what your major will be. If that first question doesn’t leave you scrambling for words, the second one just might. I was lucky since I knew exactly where I wanted to go: Texas A&M. I also thought I knew exactly what I was doing with my life and exactly what I was going to major in. Ha, if only that were still the case! As a liberal arts major, I’m going to be speaking mainly from that perspective, but these tips could also apply to STEM majors, business majors, and others.
1. Your Interests
It is so important to pick something that interests you. You will be studying this topic for four years, possibly more if you decide to go to grad school. So while an engineering major almost guarantees you a high salary, are you really going to wake up each day, dramatically look off into the sunrise, and say to yourself “wow, I love engineering”?
Find a major that makes you excited to go to class each day. I absolutely love all of my classes and I’m bummed I won’t be able to take all the classes offered. Maybe that makes me a nerd, or maybe that shows I picked a good major for me personally. Even if you don’t know what career you could possibly have with a “_______” major, choose it simply because it interests you.
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2. Your Career Aspirations
If you have no idea what you want to major in, think of what kind of career you want or what you want out of your career. If you see yourself working 9-5 in a big city, check out business majors. If you see yourself working in media, check out communication majors. Or if you want to travel for your job, check out the international studies major.
While we’re talking about careers, let’s talk about money. Don’t choose a career (then choose a major) simply because that career usually makes a lot of money. That will make for a long four years of studying something you don’t actually like only to get a job doing something you don’t actually like. If you need even more convincing, studies have shown that once people make enough money to live comfortably, more money does not equal more happiness.
3. Shadow Someone or Find a Mentor
If you have a good idea what career you want to go into, try finding someone in that industry to shadow or become your mentor. This is super helpful because it gives you a glimpse into that industry. When I was in high school, I shadowed a reporter at a local news station and that helped me know that I wanted to go into broadcast journalism, which then helped me pick my major.
I also found a mentor to talk to and she told me that, while a degree matters in the broadcast journalism industry, it doesn’t necessarily matter what your degree is. Your job experience in the industry is what matters most. I had been between three majors at the time, and this little tidbit of information helped me choose. A mentor can help you through college, internships, and maybe even your first job.
A great way to see if you actually like an industry or a job is to work there! Try to find an internship or part-time job in the industry you are interested in. Not only will it look great on a resume, but it will help you learn if you really do love that industry.
For example, I came into college 110% set on going into sports journalism. I did an internship with a sports radio show and learned that while I love sports, I’m not obsessed with them enough to actually go into sports for a career. I just wouldn’t be happy there. That internship was incredibly beneficial on so many levels and I’m going to keep it on my resume for years to come, but the most important thing it taught me was that the sports industry is not for me.
5. Don’t be afraid to change majors
Your interests will change throughout college. I thought I wanted to be a sports reporter and now I’m thinking I want to work on documentary films. In a year, it might be totally different (Update: I change it about once a month). Changing your major is not the end of the world, I promise! Talk with an advisor, do some soul searching, and make the right decision for you!
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6. Pick a general major
If you have no idea what career you want and you’re not really sure what interests you, pick a general major like Communications You have so many different paths to choose from with Communication. You could go into marketing, HR, media research, on-air talent, blogging, social media manager, etc. This is also a great major to have before going off to grad school for something more specific. Okay, I might be biased into thinking COMM is the best major out there, but it opens so many doors and who doesn’t love learning about TV, radio, and social media? Other good general majors include Business, Math, English, or Biology.
7. Take every intro course that you can
When you first start college, you’ll probably have a bunch of core classes you have to complete. Take advantage of that to try to find your major by taking every intro class you can. There are classes in college that you never heard of in high school. You can take sociology, women and gender studies, international classes, languages, astronomy, yoga, and so much more!
Find a class that sounds interesting (and fits into your degree plan) and sign yourself up! You will be getting class credit and it will hopefully help you learn what you are interested in so that you can choose a major. Talk with your advisor to find these random, interesting classes that can count towards your degree.
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8. Don’t forget about minors
A minor can complement a major really well. For example, when I thought I wanted to be a sports reporter, I was majoring in journalism and wanted to minor in sports management. A minor is also a great way to learn more about a topic that you don’t quite want to major in.
I’m currently minoring in psychology because I find it really interesting, but it’s not something that I necessarily want to major in. I’m also minoring in French mainly because, after my study abroad trip, I will be one class away from a French minor. It just makes sense to tack that onto my degree.
9. Get Creative
I sent out an email not too long ago and I asked what you struggled with the most. I got an email from Regan who said she was having trouble picking a major. She wanted to major in theater, but her parents didn’t approve. This is where you have to get creative and find a way to get your interests into your major.
If you have a situation like Regan’s, try minoring in your interest and majoring in something general like business or communication. For example, Regan could go into the marketing side of theater or become a talent agent or something similar. You could also pick a major that allows you to go into your interested field. If you’re really interested in traveling, an international studies major opens up a lot of opportunities to travel. At the very least, join a club that interests you and make your interest into a hobby.
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10. Talk with your parents
Your parents know you really well – they’ve been living with you for the past 18 years. Talk with them to see what majors or careers they suggest. Remember how I mentioned shadowing, mentors, and internships not too long ago? Parents are also great for helping with this.
I got my shadowing experience, found my mentor, and scored my first internship all because of my parents. They have connections and they know people who know people who can help you figure out where you want to go in life. All you have to do is ask!
11. Talk with your advisor
Let me tell you something about academic advisors, they are saviors! If you want to know the ins and outs of a major, the career options you have with a major, the best profs, what classes are the most interesting, or anything else, go talk with your advisor. They are there to help you through thick and thin, so be sure to meet with yours often!
12. Get to know the faculty of the major
I saved this point for the very end because 1) I’ve got a story and 2) it’s so important! Let’s start with the story. When I first came to Texas A&M, I was a journalism major. Unfortunately, the director and I had differing opinions on broadcast journalism which made it hard to work together. He’s a great guy and has a long resume to prove it, we just didn’t fit together. My honors advisor was also the advisor for COMM and there were many COMM classes that interested me, so it made sense to change my major.
I would highly suggest having a sit down meeting with the director or advisor of the major. You can talk with that person to get information about the major, but more importantly, you get to see the personality and dynamic of the faculty in that major. Whenever you need help, this is who you will be talking to so it’s important to like them! I promise they will be excited to talk to you, a prospective student, about their major. Better yet, try to find a student in that major to talk to about the director, advisor, and profs! You’ll get the most honest opinions from students!
Why did you choose your major? Tweet at me or let me know in the comments below!