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How do you decide what to major in? If you have more than on option in mind.

Going to college in the fall wanting to know all my options out there available to me. #undecided


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Caitlin’s Answer

Picking a major is a bit like driving a car - - you need to set a goal (destination), so you can build a plan (drive a route). It's hard to know at 18 what you want to do professionally, but commit to a direction and work toward the goal. If you're clear about what skills you want to learn along the way, it's then easier to a) identify some choices up front, and b) get value out of the journey, even if you change destinations!

Here are some questions I would ask myself (and others) to help make a decision:

1) What subjects do I really enjoy? Which subjects seem to come naturally to me?
2) What jobs or fields seem interesting to me? What can I learn about different types of work that could fall into that field?
3) Are there certain departments at my college/university that have a particularly strong reputation?

When I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was good at History, my school had an excellent History department and because this was "pre-internet", I couldn't really visualize all the jobs out there. I started college thinking I might be a History professor, and then decided I wasn't interested in getting a Ph.D. Even though I didn't get a job in History as a field, the major taught me a lot about research, reading quickly, and organizing my thoughts to make compelling arguments. Those are skills I have been able to apply in a business setting.

I do also recommend "experimenting" with different kinds of coursework in college. Maybe you want to major in a really practical - clear job market field - - for example, accounting/finance. But then you take an elective in child psychology and your mind now opens to totally different possibilities! Invest in your major, but also take advantage of the breadth of exposure college has to offer.

Caitlin recommends the following next steps:

Make a list of careers that seem interesting to you - then a list of majors that you think would support each career choice
Chat with your guidance counselor about their recommendations
Connect with your advisor early and often when you get to college

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John’s Answer

You can double-major, or take a minor. You can go to college for a bit before you decide. Take one or more classes in your prospective major and meet with professors in that subject to ask them the benefits of a major in their school. Talk to fellow students about their majors and what they like and don't like about them.

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Dustin’s Answer

There are a lot of different things that you can do in order to help decide on a major. My personal recommendations would be to talk to a school counselor, be open to a variety of classes and pick those that align most with your interests, network with other students on campus and join different clubs/groups to see where you find the most interest and commonality, and attend school career fairs/information sessions. As long as you remain open and stay involved you will find what is best and what makes the most sense for you personally. As others have stated just because you pick one major doesn't mean you are stuck so don't be afraid or put too much pressure on your decision.

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Dave’s Answer

Try to not put too much pressure on yourself. The transition to college can be overwhelming and requires adjustment to campus life. Most universities will let you switch majors or even go in undeclared the first year or two. Take a few classes that interest you and see if that helps narrow it down. Also keep in mind that your major doesn't necessarily dictate your path for the rest of your life. It's not unusual for people to decide to switch careers or even go back to school... sometimes multiple times!

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Hannah’s Answer

Hi Kristen!

Depending on the majors you are interested in, you may have a semester or two in college to complete some exploratory or elective courses - you typically do not have to declare a major in your first semester of freshman year, but that may depend on the school you attend.

One thing you can do outside of the classroom is take self exploration assessments. One free assessment online is called 16 Personalities and is based on the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator: https://www.16personalities.com/. My state, Indiana, offers free education and career exploration resources online, so your state might do something similar through https://jobs.mo.gov/ or another government site. These types of assessments may help you to discover more about what you enjoy and what kind of major or work your personality might be a good fit for, but these assessments shouldn't be treated as law - they should help you find your path, not decide it for you. The college you plan to attend may also have a career development office - definitely send them an email! They may have online resources that allow you to browse really in-depth info about each major you're looking at (ask them about What Can I Do With This Major?).

In a more informal way, you can also spend some time on your own brainstorming what it is you find so exciting about the majors you will choose between. And don't be discouraged by thinking of where this or that major might take you in five or ten years! The fulfilling career you wanted all along may, in the end, have NOTHING to do with your college major (this happens ALL THE TIME!). However, it's important to collect the resources and tools that a college education can offer and use them to find what you are really passionate about, and have fun doing it!

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Gloria’s Answer

Since you are just starting your college experience, you should not feel a lot of pressure to decide on a major just yet. Most of your major work is done during your junior and senior year. I would suggest that you work hard on the general courses that you need to take at your university – English, History, Math, etc. I would also recommend that you challenge yourself with the elective courses that you take. If you do not really know what you want to major in, you should start to look in places where you have never looked. Take the elective that you don’t even know what it is. That will expose you to new experiences that may catch your attention. Or you may find that something you don’t think would be a good major is actually what you want to do. You should not be afraid of majors where you are not quite sure what you will do with it as a job. I ended up graduating with what is the equivalent of a Liberal Arts degree at a lot of universities. And what do I do? I am an Instructional Designer.
I learned what my strengths were through working. I didn’t know that I would end up being a Learning and Development professional when I started doing data entry at a credit card company. There I found out I can explain to people how to do their jobs in a way that helped them learn fast. Also consider volunteering with various organizations. That can expose to you different roles, help you find your strengths, and help you to build a network outside of those you find in your every day life.

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Aya’s Answer

Hi Kristen. I know a lot of people who ended up taking a career path that has nothing to do with their college major. If there is a specific career path that you are interested in, then browse through LinkedIn and take a look at what people with relevant jobs studied at college (most likely you will see that it will vary). I think browsing LinkedIn in general will make you realise that there is no single path.

I'd say don't stress about picking the "right" major. If you are not looking at specialty fields, Arts & Sciences is a good start for an all rounded education, and as you start your studies you'll get a better idea of what major you want to choose. Study what interests you and I think that the most important thing you can take away from a good education is not absorbing information and regurgitating it, but being able to form your own ideas based on what you learn and express them in your own words, being able to defend your opinions in an eloquent way, and being able to apply anything you learn to a wide variety of scenarios.

I was a Psychology major but I never took on the traditional career path of becoming a Psychologist or counsellor etc. What my Psychology classes taught me was how to be more conscious about the people around me and to question correlation vs causation, to be more aware of how everybody thinks and experiences things in a different way based on their experiences or predisposition etc. I could probably end up where I am today without having majored in Psychology but it has influenced me to think in certain ways.

Getting a college education is important but getting real life experience of working is important as well.

Aya recommends the following next steps:

Get on LinkedIn and start browsing

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Alex’s Answer

Hi Kristen - this is a great question! Let me ensure you that you're not the only one who is hesitant in choosing that ONE career path. I remember graduating from high school and contemplating what direction i wanted to take my life. It's a daunting decision, but something that is super rewarding! I would recommend writing down all the jobs you know you would LOVE to have in the future. Then ask yourself, what is the main goal you want to achieve? Is it to help people? It's it to provide great entertainment? Or maybe you want to heal people or even protect your community. Whatever it is, I would encourage you to have a purpose in anything you do. Then go back to your list and begin to narrow it down to match your objectives in life.
I also highly recommend talking to a lot of people in the field. Try to network and cold-message folks on Linkedin to learn a little more about that profession. How long did it take them to get certified? How many years of schooling did they have to go through? What did they learn along the way? Talking to people who have already been down the path will be extremely helpful in understanding and visualizing a career you'd like to take.
Hope this helps!

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Melanie’s Answer

Deciding a major is difficult, especially with many in mind. A few years ago, I was in your shoes when I had to choose between a design, psychology, and English major. The three major deciding factors I had were 1) passion, 2)career goals, and 3)skill level/experience. For the first, I definitely had passion for all of them, but in differing levels; however, my passion was more geared towards English and Psychology. Initially, I was interested in being a writer which lead me towards an English major with a minor in psychology. When I entered college, though, I realized that English was just not for me and sometimes that is what happens. College is a time for both learning and discovering yourself. In this time you are supposed to discover what you like (and dislike), career goals, and more, so for the second point, I re-evaluated my career goals which led me to becoming a psychology major with... a minor in English. Almost instantly, my mood skyrocketed and my academic success did as well. One major tip I will give is that if your grades are not where YOU want them to be (not your parents, your professors, your advisors, etc.) and you are working hard, look inward and find where you're passions lie. Whether the job market is difficult or what people's opinions are should not dictate your future, so decide what you want for YOURSELF. This will bring you farther than anything because once passion is there, work ethic and skill can greatly develop.
Double majoring is also an option, but be aware that it is difficult and involves a lot of time management. Depending on what two majors you choose, overlap may not be great which will require you take take more credits per semester. If challenge is up your ally, then by all means do it; however, experiment in your first year and take a variety of classes, so that you can gauge where you are with your goals.

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Stephanie’s Answer

Hello! I have two suggestions! I want you to think about the kinds of things you love and the kinds of things you're good at. Are you really good at math or at writing? Do love you helping people? Creating things? When you can make a list of both those things you can start looking at the kinds of careers you could possibly have. And then see what those requirements are. You might also find that a broader degree that can applied to a variety of careers might seem more beneficial. For instance, I have always been very creative and loved writing and public speaking. I usually found myself leading organizations. I majored in communication and then went on to get my Masters in Communication Management. Initially I was thinking I was going into journalism. Two years after graduation my focus switched to live entertainment. I found both degrees still very applicable. Had I got with B.A. in journalism specifically it may not been as widely applicable when I switched directions. In both careers I'm using a skill set I enjoy and get to tell fantastic stories!

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Chris’s Answer

This is a great question and one that almost everyone asks themselves at some point. As a high school student I was able to easily perform at a B level without putting much effort into studying. I quickly realized in college this was really poor approach and that I robbed myself of the opportunity to learn how to study and how to prepare. What I'm trying to encourage is that you focus on your studies now as it will payoff later. When I went to college all I really knew was that I wanted to study business of some sort, mostly because it was the only career I thought I was remotely aware of. I took an accounting class (which was not offered in my high school, and I wouldn't have taken had it been offered) and the light bulb came on for me and I poured my heart and soul into studying and found something that I really enjoyed. After college I got a job with an accounting firm and loved it but be aware that most often the degree you get doesn't look a lot like real life. The best advice I can provide is to speak to a guidance counselor and seek a broad career path that interests you. After college and life begins to kick in you can start to make decisions on exactly what you want to do and what interests you.

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Gloria’s Answer

Since you are just starting your college experience, you should not feel a lot of pressure to decide on a major just yet. Most of your major work is done during your junior and senior year. I would suggest that you work hard on the general courses that you need to take at your university – English, History, Math, etc. I would also recommend that you challenge yourself with the elective courses that you take. If you do not really know what you want to major in, you should start to look in places where you have never looked. Take the elective that you don’t even know what it is. That will expose you to new experiences that may catch your attention. Or you may find that something you don’t think would be a good major is actually what you want to do. You should not be afraid of majors where you are not quite sure what you will do with it as a job. I ended up graduating with what is the equivalent of a Liberal Arts degree at a lot of universities. And what do I do? I am an Instructional Designer.
I learned what my strengths were through working. I didn’t know that I would end up being a Learning and Development professional when I started doing data entry at a credit card company. There I found out I can explain to people how to do their jobs in a way that helped them learn fast. Also consider volunteering with various organizations. That can expose to you different roles, help you find your strengths, and help you to build a network outside of those you find in your every day life.

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Bridget’s Answer

My suggestion would be to try to do some intern job first (or interview your elder friends or the friends of your parents) to get a picture what the work life would be and what it meant to you. There is no good job or bad job the only thing matters is whether it satisfy your career expectation.

Say for myself, my parents picked up Accounting as my major since they believe it's easy to find a job and I can make a living on my own. but you know what I didn't do any job in Accounting since my graduation but get into IT industry. While through the learning at University, I learn skills in computer science and I found I was great in this area which I never know myself before that and I found I like working with people make thing happen. I can tell I like to interact with people rather than handling mass of data in accounting.

After graduation, my first job was a trainer of the accounting software. Actually I was hired since my major is accounting so I know how to talk to Accountant and I have the basic understanding of the accounting concept while my job was to install the software and train them which is more IT related. I enjoyed quite a bit in my first job as I can travel a lot to train different accountant in different company. I have been working in this industry for 20+ years now.

So you can tell whether Accounting is a bad/good choice of my major selection? I won't regret my choice on Accounting as it does help to get my first job and start with my career in IT industry.

In my opinion, you don't need to be too concerned about selecting which major, Talk to yourself what interests you at most and you are willing to spend efforts to explore it. I believe you will succeed

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Mike’s Answer

Hi Kristen,

I would recommend not putting so much pressure on your shoulder for the first couple years of your college life. Try to enjoy the different atmosphere college brings, meeting new friends, as well as exploring different options you may be interested in.

If you are looking for job security, I would recommend you looking into majoring in engineering or accounting. However majoring in engineering or accounting is no easy task, you need to be 100% committed since both subjects can be overwhelming at times. I did not decide to major in accounting until the second semester of my sophomore year in college. Thus, you still have time to discover what you really want to do for your career. Do not feel you are behind schedule if you couldn't decide what to major in, a lot of college students ended up switching majors multiple times in college. It is all about what you want to do.

If you are interested in accounting for your career, feel free to ask me additional questions.

Sincerely,

Mike

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Bill’s Answer

Kristen,

Without a clear choice of a major or thought on career, I would enter college undecided and take general education classes with electives. Enjoy the college experience and keep your mind open to new areas of study. Find passion in your work and you will be successful.

Best of luck in your future pursuit.

Bill


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Reid’s Answer

I was in your shoes ~ 8 years ago and what I decided to do was to pick a very broad major (business) and to take the beginner/general courses my first couple of semesters. By doing this, I gained credits that would still be applicable no matter what specialty within the wide-spectrum of business that i wanted to pursue over the next couple of years. This also allowed me to figure out what courses I liked and wanted to take more of and which ones i didn't like and wanted to avoid for my upcoming semesters.

All this to say, if you are unsure of what you want to major it (like many people are), pick a broad major with a lot of specialty options within it so that you can pivot to areas of interest without losing credits/time/money.

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Katelyn’s Answer

For me I looked at my personal strengths and weaknesses. I acknowledged things that I was good at and thought about how I can translate that into my career. I am very detailed oriented and I always thought event planning would be fun. Event planners have to be detailed so it was a good fit for me and I enjoyed learning about it. In all honestly it becomes more clear once you start taking classes. You will notice what classes you enjoy and interest you, and which ones do not. So many people change their majors in college because once they start talking classes on the subject they realize it does not interest them as much as they thought it would. I would recommend reading books or listening to YouTube videos that relate to the major you are interested in. See if the information is intriguing to you or bores you. That will help you decide if it is something you could do long term for a career.

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Tammy’s Answer

To add on to the other comments, an internship in a field you are interested in is a great way to find out if you think a specific career path interests you.

Good Luck

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Chris’s Answer

I'm going through the same exercises with my own high school aged kids! It is always fun thinking about the possibilities and opportunities in life. In addition to talking to people in the different fields you are interested in, there are some great career aptitude tests out there that will assist in finding an area of study that best fits who you are and what you like. The Princeton Review has one such test. Ultimately, experience can be the best teacher, as others have written about in above posts. I also changed majors in college from business to music due to my own experience and passion. It was a change that lifted me from doing poorly in college to excelling. When you love what you study, you will excel!

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Xavier’s Answer

I say talk to a counselor about the type of career you want after school. Try to see what classes align with that type of career. I would then choose the major that requires most of those classes.

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Tomiwa’s Answer

Picking a Major was one of the most challenging things for me entering University. My mom and I talk about literally everything and she knows my interests very well. She had some suggestions of major's she believed I would enjoy based on what she knows about me, so if you have anyone in your life like this I would suggest talking to them. Also if you have friends already in some of the major's you are interested in, you could talk to them and have them give you more information on their major to see if you would enjoy something similar! These are some of the steps I took in deciding to be a Finance major, but if you end up not enjoying what you picked, you can always change it!

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Megan’s Answer

If you've already selected the university you want to attend, reach out to them to see what guidance and resources they can provide you. For example, a big reason I decided to go to Penn State for my undergraduate degree was because they had a school (and guidance counselors/academic advisors) specifically for students who had not yet decided what they wanted to major in. Further, I was able to live in a dorm with individuals who were in the same boat.

Regardless of what you decide, be sure to keep an open dialogue with your academic advisor. They should be able to help you keep your options open (read: decide what kind of classes might be appropriate, when) while you're getting a feel for things!

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celeste’s Answer

Kristen,

I was just like you when I was first starting my college career. I had a few different interests and did not know where to start. I ended up in a field that I did not even know I had interest in when I first started! I got there because of these few things...
1. Consistent communication between myself and my adviser
2. Talking to my family and friends and professors
3. Started with my gen. eds. The nice thing about doing this is your getting the heavy stuff out of the way at the beginning. However I did use my electives for classes that sparked my interest. By the time I started my bachelors I new the direction I wanted to go.
4. STAY FOCUSED and MOTIVATED! This is key. By keeping your motivation in school and success you will naturally go in the right direction! It doesn't have to be planned from the beginning. Starting college is the beginning of the journey and the journey will end right where your supposed to be if you stay motivated and driven!

Good Luck to you in your upcoming journey! Stress less and have the time of your life!

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