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A major question

Tips on deciding on a college major

February 20, 2019

There it is. The dreaded blank. You click on the dropdown menu and select from hundreds of options. You gaze at the screen and log off due to your uncertainty.

This is the fear for so many graduating seniors looking to further their education in college and decide on a major. They question if they should consider prestige and employment opportunity, or base the choice on enjoyment. This is a common occurrence for these young adults, just like it was for me.

After looking at all of my interests and seeing where they intersected with what jobs are in high demand by companies and employers, I determined that a healthy balance of both leads to a prosperous and enjoyable career. Although I still do not know exactly what I will do, I am much closer than I was. If you still have no idea what you want to major in, that is fine. 30 percent of college students switch majors at least once during their college years. Despite the fact I have not gone off to college and been thrown into the mix of determining my own career plan, here are the steps that I would recommend.

  1. Always think a step ahead. Following this step has placed me in many advantageous situations. In the summer before my freshman year, I planned out every class I would take through my senior year. There were a lot of changes and deviations from my original plan, but I had a rough idea of what I would do. Find a standard list of college majors and mark out the ones that you absolutely hate or could never see yourself doing. If you are about to enter high school, find a course guide and plan out what classes you are required to take, want to take and even courses that remotely look interesting. Talk to an academic advisor about your plan, and this will let them know that you are a motivated student causing them to be more apt to listen to you. If you are about to graduate and plan to further your education, look up classes and majors at colleges you are interested in or applying to. It is important to look at both because majors may contain courses that you do not know about but may interest you. Talk to an academic advisor about your plan just like in high school, and build and maintain a good relationship with them. Research endeavors and extracurricular activities are other important aspects to examine.
  2. Discover your passion, but keep an open mind. At the beginning of my freshman year, I took an engineering class, and I despised it. I was invited to apply to a NASA program during my junior year that focused on the STEM field, and knowing my admiration for NASA and my love for science fiction and space, I applied and was accepted. The online and onsite program at Johnson Space Center completely changed my mind about engineering and what it holds. Look at what classes and extracurriculars you have participated in high school. What did you truly enjoy? What did you tolerate? What were you really good at? If any of these intersected, write it down or remember that a particular major caught your attention when you answered these questions. Although the saying, “if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life” may ring true you still need a job that will support you and possibly others.
  3. Find what jobs are in high demand by employers on the market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes median salaries, unemployment rates and more data every year and make projections for the future for various jobs. This is a good source to use to evaluate if a college major will have good job prospects or not. See what jobs have salaries that you like and good future prospects, and make a note of those careers.
  4. Find the intersection between the jobs with good salaries and job prospects and the college majors that you like. Both passion and realism need to have an influence on what you decide to learn about and work on in college and the rest of your life. Your academic advisor will be knowledgeable of the campus’s various programs, and they will be able to help you join the program, major or degree that is right for you.
  5. At the end of the day, it is ok to be undecided about your college major. Nearly every college has a core curriculum referred to as “basics” that most freshmen and even sophomores take in college. This gives college students time to explore possible interests and maybe even reveal a hidden passion of theirs. Think of being undecided as an opportunity to explore rather than the end of the world.

These steps will allow you to rest assured that you have a plan even if that changes. Your academic advisor will help you make changes when necessary and maintain the pace of graduating in four years. Changing your major is not the end of the world, but rather, it represents the beginning of you learning about the opportunities around you.

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