Choosing a major in college is one of the most important decisions you will make in your young life. Your decision for your future will either yield tremendous dividends, or it will result in thousands of dollars in debt with zero job prospects. This is why it is essential that you figure out what is the best field of study to attain a degree in; otherwise, you could be stuck wasting several years accruing a lot of debt that will cripple you for years to come.
On the one hand, you are interested in getting into a career that fascinates you, but it does not pay as much as you would hope. On the other hand, you’re considering choosing a major that will lead to a handsome salary for the rest of your career. What is one supposed to do? Decisions, decisions, indeed!
You should never feel ashamed to request help because this is not an easy move. Plus, the magnitude of how it can affect your life moving forward cannot be stated enough.
To help you out, we’ve put together a quick and insightful guide on how to choose a major.
The Three Qs
Before you start exploring possible routes you can take in school, it is first important to understand the role of a major and why it is necessary to select one before you start your first day of class.
1. What Is a Major?
A major will be your specialised area of study that will be complemented by several electives, such as political science, eastern religion or economics. You will need to meet a series of requirements and prerequisites, outlined by your college or university, in order to start your two-, four- or six-year journey to attaining a degree in this major.
2. How Important Is It?
It is true that a particular major will not guarantee success or failure, riches or unemployment. But it does establish a blueprint for your future, a sort of guided tour on this thing called life. It is not a good idea to take random courses because then you’re walking around blind without a cane. You have to see around corners.
3. When Do You Declare One?
The answer to this question depends on what school you are interested in attending or what programme you are thinking about enrolling in. That said, for the most part, you are expected to list a major on your college application. If you’re still unsure by the time application season rolls around, then you can insert ‘undecided’. But you should know when you’re participating in academic interviews.
How to Choose a Major
So, let’s look at ways to select the right degree for you in college or university.
1. Identify Your Interests
It has been said many times that if you find a career you love, then you will never work a day in your life. In other words: if writing, calculating or digging for dinosaur bones is what makes you happy in life, then you aren’t really working. (Or perhaps we have an entirely different view of what work is, but that is too much of an existential discussion for now.)
When you’re trying to find a speciality to study, you first need to brainstorm and compile a list of interests. It doesn’t matter what they are; just be honest with yourself and determine what sparks joy, as the Japanese pop culture icon Marie Kondo says.
Do you love sports? Do you enjoy gardening? Does law stimulate your little grey cells? If so, then you should jot these areas down and set them aside for potential professions.
2. Research the Job Market
We are sorry to say but there is very little work for those who have years of study in Medieval poetry. Ditto for lesbian dance theory graduates, sociology doctorates and fine arts majors.
On the one hand, many teachers will encourage secondary school students to earn a degree in areas they are passionate about. Unfortunately, passion does not pay the rent and put groceries on that table, and neither does that $40,000 paper diploma hanging on the wall. So, if you’re thinking about becoming a cellist, then you might experience long bouts of unemployment. However, if you’re great at web development but it isn’t your passion, then consider that the jobless rate is one of the lowest for graduates and it yields an admirable salary.
3. Choose the Right School
Picking the right school is just as important as figuring out what to major in. Sure, it is great that you are studying to become an aerospace engineer or a financial analyst, but what good is it if you’re an alumnus of I Fleece You University or Suckers Park College? Put simply: the name of where you graduate from is imperative to landing respectable employment opportunities. This means you need the best university on your CV.
Indeed, NASA or Goldman Sachs aren’t interested in applicants who came from FU State University.
4. Analyse Your Abilities
Are you overconfident in your mathematics acumen? Are you underconfident in your chemistry proficiency? Many of us are unaware of just how good or bad we are in specific subjects. Perhaps sometimes we self-deprecate too much, or we are inflating our egos.
Whatever the case, as you scan through the extensive lists of fields to study, it is imperative that you analyse your abilities first. This is crucial because you don’t want to flunk in college, and you don’t want to pass up incredible earning opportunities by avoiding majors you were excellent in.
If you are unsure how to assess your abilities, then perhaps you can take tests to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. You can begin by taking any of the online competency assessments, in addition to personality tests, classical intelligence examinations and random quizzes.
5. Get Help
When you’re stumped, you’re left with one other option: getting help.
Now, there is no shame in seeking assistance. A lot of young people feel inadequate or silly asking for advice because they believe they should know what they want to study as soon as they enter the third grade. But life is not that easy.
Here is what you should do:
- Speak to administrative advisors: Get in touch with the university or college and ask questions about tuition fees, graduation rates, percentage of graduates who find jobs and dropout rates.
- Meet with career counsellors: Once the seeds of doubt rummage through your mind or the frustration of not knowing what to take settles in, then you can meet with a career counsellor. This is someone who is in your high school or postsecondary institution offering words of wisdom, information and other matters of importance to your career path.
- Talk to peers: Some of your friends or fellow classmates may have some advice because they were in the same boat as you were. Ask them, pick their brains and see if you can learn a thing or two.
- Chat with your parents: You may think that your parents are square, but they have been in the same predicament as you. They are there for a reason, so see if you can come to a conclusion with their aid.
- Reach out to graduates: Are you interested in becoming a chef or a sports agent? You should reach out to graduates from the school you’re attending to find out their experience and how they are coping in these careers.
You are not an impotent, all-knowing being (yet), so it is only normal to get stumped from time to time.
6. List Your Life Goals
In the 1938 movie Holiday, Cary Grant is a self-made man who invests in a project just to earn enough money to allow him to take a long holiday from work and travel the world to find the meaning of life.
This is a lofty ambition, and probably something many of us wish we could do. But why do we erect such barriers in our lives? The next question is also: what do you want out of life?
In addition to locating the right college and the best major for your career choice, you should also list your life goals – both short- and long-term. Do you want flexibility in your work? Do you want to travel more than perform the 9-to-5 routine? Do you wish to work around the clock for 10 years and then take it easy?
It’s your life, so you decide what you want.
7. Give Yourself Time
One of the most important things to remember is that you should give yourself a sufficient amount of time before making that giant leap, that immense commitment.
Because the global economy is so competitive, we are taught from a young age that you should transition from high school to a four- to six-year college almost immediately. Just because your friends are doing it and you have been encouraged by your friends to do so, it doesn’t mean you need to, too.
If you’re unsure what steps to take after high school, there is nothing wrong with giving yourself a few more months or even a year or two to find yourself. This could consist of working at various jobs, seeing the country or the world and figuring out what you enjoy out of life and if there is money to be made doing it. You might realise university is not for you, or you may determine that college is the best fit.
A $50,000 price tag is nothing to sneeze at, and neither is investing four years of your life in something that you might ditch after just two years in the workforce. You need to be sure.
Deciding to go to college is the first step. The next step in this arduous process is knowing what you will study for the next few years. Will it be psychology to help you become a psychoanalyst? Will it be economics to land you a position at a think tank? Will it be broadcast journalism to bring back sanity to cable news?
This is the most exciting time of your life, so don’t waste it by wasting four years and tens of thousands of dollars on a degree that will only lead to a lifetime barista, bartending or telemarketing position.
Do you have anything you’d like to add? Join the conversation down below and let us know.