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How do I pick a college major?


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Subject: Career question for you
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John’s Answer

Jessica choosing a career path can be a confusing, complicated and—at worst—depressing experience. With so much pressure to follow your dreams, become a success and have all your life all planned out by age 16, it’s no surprise the phrase “career planning” can get your heart racing. But finding a career you actually like doesn’t have to be rocket science. You’re basically looking for a job that fits your interests, skills and needs. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

1. Know Your Work Style – Your work style influences your ability to thrive in certain careers. For example, if you’re someone who tends to procrastinate, a career where you report directly to another individual will most likely be better than one where you’re left to your own devices for large parts of the day. There are, of course, other factors that affect your job performance. But, your natural work style plays a big role. Every career requires a different skill set. Sales managers need great leadership skills, and teachers need to be able to communicate effectively with both students and parents. Take some time to figure out what you’re good at. List every talent and skill you have, even if it doesn’t seem like it will help you get a job. Knowing every skill that you have – even ones that don’t seem particularly marketable – can help you find a career that you’ll enjoy and be good at.

2. Determine Your Goals – What do you want out of a career? Do you want to help other people? Do you want to travel? How much money do you want to make? If you’re pursuing a career that doesn’t align with your long-term goals, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever feel truly satisfied with it. Of course, goals change over time, and things that were once extremely important become less 0ver time. It’s still good to have an idea of what you want so that you have something to work toward. Of all the tips for choosing a career, thinking about what you value in a job is one of the most important. Do you love working independently, or do you need social interaction throughout the day to feel fulfilled? Is it important for you to spend time with your family and be home at a certain hour every day? Or are you fine with working overtime and having a more unpredictable schedule? Really think about these questions and pass over any careers that won’t match up with the things you value most.

3. Do the Math – You’ll also have to do some math and think about the amount of time and money it will take for you to get where you want to go. How much education is required for you to get your dream career? Are you willing and able to put in that time and the money that comes with it? Remember that Things Can Change. There are a million “Best Careers” lists out there that will say you should strive for a certain career because you’re guaranteed to make a certain amount of money with it. However, there’s no way to totally guarantee job security and stability. There might be a lot of demand for a job now, but what about in 10 years? You don’t have to completely disregard predictions about the outlook for a certain job. But don’t choose a job just because it’s number one on a list somewhere. Things can change over time, and the job that was once number one might end up not even making the list a few years from now.

4. Talk to People Who Work in the Field – Talking with someone who is already working in the field you’re considering can be extremely helpful. If you can meet with multiple people, that’s even better. A 15-minute interview can tell you a lot about a specific career. Ask questions about the pros and cons of the job, whether or not the person would choose it if they could go back in time, and what kinds of skills they’ve found to be most beneficial. Job shadowing can be just as, if not more, beneficial. Following someone around for a day is kind of like getting a glimpse into your future. You’ll get a good idea of whether or not you actually want to do the same work that this person is doing, which can help solidify your decision about a future career. An internship is another way to get hands-on experience to help you decide if a certain career is right for you. There’s nothing more realistic than actually doing the work you’re thinking about dedicating your life to! An internship can also help you get a foot in the door at a company you really want to work for. One study found that 52 percent of interns get offered a full-time position with the company they were working for!

5. Be Flexible – When you’ve invested a lot of time and money into training for a certain career, it can be hard to admit that you aren’t actually interested in it. A lot of people end up unsatisfied because they stuck with a career path just because they didn’t want to feel like they’d wasted all the time they spent preparing for it. Remember, it’s never too late to start over if you’re not happy with the path you’re currently on. Look at the big picture. A couple of extra years in school will be worth it if they help you get to a career you truly love instead of one that you can only tolerate. If you’re considering switching paths and setting your sites on a new career, work through these tips and figure out what will really satisfy you.

Hope this was Helpful Jessica

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Zach’s Answer

Hi Jessica, choosing the right school in today's world is no small task. I was in your shoes just a few years ago, and I had some tough choices to make. My first suggestion is to start early. You don't want to be rushing to find schools at the last minute. Then, be honest with yourself. Find what motivates you and what you think you want to study and eventually do as a job. Talk with your guidance counselors to see if they can help with this, and they'll likely even recommend schools. From here, think about what you want out of a college experience. Do you want a strong research institution? Do you want a school that is competitive in sports? Perhaps this step will already yield some obvious choices. Now, do some research. Go to a college fair, talk to your guidance counselor, or just start googling schools with these attributes. You'll likely be faced with a WIDE variety of options. This may seem overwhelming, but that's perfectly ok. Start noting schools that interest you based on different factors like price, location, size, reputation, etc. Pretty soon, you'll have a focused list of schools, and you can really start to research the individual characteristics of each school. Take some time to visit schools if you can, as this will give you the best possible view of life as a student there. You might like the looks of a school on paper, then hate the school when you visit. Trust me, this step is worth the effort.

Once you have an idea of the schools you love, (I recommend choosing no more than 8) start applying. I know it's tempting to apply to a ton of schools, but I recommend keeping the list short so you can really focus on making your applications the absolute best they can be. Look to apply non-binding early action to show interest in schools, as well as maximize the attention they will give your application. Waiting for applications to be accepted can be very stressful. Take this time to enjoy your senior year with your friends. You don't want your whole year of making memories to be instead consumed by your college search. As acceptance letters and scholarships start to roll in, critically think about where you want to go. If you really can't choose at this point, have a friend count down from 3, then blurt out your gut decision. If a college has made it this far on your list, then chances are whichever you choose will be a great fit for you!

I hope this helps you in your search. Good luck, and remember to enjoy your senior year!

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Cathy’s Answer

Making good decisions is necessary in all aspects of your life. The best decisions are made if you consider and answer each of four group of questions based on the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator.

First ask yourself:
-What do I know? What are the facts?
-What does common sense suggest?
-What are the benefits?
-What will this cost?
-What have others done in similar circumstances?

Next ask yourself:
-What else is appealing?
-Are there sets of rules to follow that will help this make sense?
-Is there a new way of solving this or answering this question?

Thirdly, ask yourself:
-What is wrong with each idea I am considering?
-What would be a better way to do this?
-What are the consequences of going with each idea?
-What are the consequences of not doing anything?

Finally, ask yourself:
-Are their other people who could help me come up with a good solution?
-How will what I decide impact others?
-Does my choice match with what I think is important? What others think is important?
-How much do I care about what might happen?
-Who will help me if I need help making my choice a reality?

It's fun and helpful to involve others who you trust and admire to give their input on important decisions. Good luck and enjoy the decision making process.


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Sheila’s Answer

Hi Jessica:

Thank you for your question. You've received some good insightful information that Professionals have shared with you; so I don't want to repeat in my comments. Here are a few items for your consideration when choosing a major.

1) What are you passionate about (ie, what do you like doing if you didn't get paid to do it)? Or, another way to look at this is what gives you a challenge?
2) Where is the industry headed? Right now, COVID-19 careers appears to be in great demand. Look further down the road (5, 10 years).
3) Research the university/college you want to attend. Schedule an orientation (virtual meeting) with an Adviser before you attend college. FYI, my niece recently did this and the Adviser was impressed with her because he said she was far ahead of the game. She had 1:1 time with the Adviser and was able to ask all of her questions.
4) Talk to parents, friends, family, and school administrators.

These are just a few tips to get you thinking about how you could choose your major. Best of luck to you!

~ Sheila

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Blake’s Answer

To always do the right thing. If that is compromised, then my decision is made.

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Ram’s Answer

When making decision, in a very general sense, I take the problem ad separate it into chunks, and proceed to solve each problem individually. Surprising, something this simple has helped me make many good decisions in my life and break into the career I have wanted.

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Rohit’s Answer

Create a constructive environment.
Investigate the situation in detail.
Generate good alternatives.
Explore your options.
Select the best solution.
Evaluate your plan.
Communicate your decision, and take action.

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