How to choose a college major | The ultimate guide
7 mins read

How to choose a college major | The ultimate guide

If you’re wondering how to choose a college major, then don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Choosing a major can be tricky, especially if you have multiple passions or don’t know what kind of career you want.

The reality is that many students change their majors. According to a 2020 study on college students by BestColleges, 3 in 5 college grads would change their majors if they could go back.

Before you commit to a major, you should consider several factors. We’ll get into those in a minute.

Before we do though, let’s review what a college major actually is. 

What is a college major?

A college major is the focus area for a two- or four-year degree. Undergraduates choose a major in order to specialize in their degree in a particular field. 

Whether they’re a business major or a biology major, undergrads take coursework related to their major to graduate.

Most majors require 30-36 credits of coursework. The other credits are dedicated to gen ed requirements, minor coursework, and electives.

The formula for thriving in college

How to choose a college major

Choosing a major represents a significant step in the college process, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are six factors to consider before choosing a major.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Major

1. Consider Your Biggest Priorities

The first consideration should be your biggest priority. Some students pursue certain majors primarily based on salary potential and job demand. Others choose majors they’re passionate about or highly skilled in.

Before you choose a major, think about which of these three factors:

  • Economic advantage 
  • The interest level and ability
  • Relevance to your goals

2. Consider your interests and personality

Studies have found that students tend to perform better in school when they can focus on their interests. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for people to identify their interests.

To get help with this, consider taking a personality quiz. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire can help you determine subjects that closely align with your personality and interests.

This popular assessment uses your habits and attitudes to generate one of 16 personality types, written as a combination of four letters. Examples include ISFJ (introverted, sensing, feeling, and judging) and ENTP (extroverted, intuitive, thinking, and perceiving).

You can also explore potential areas of study and career paths by joining student clubs, volunteering, working a part-time job on campus, managing a side hustle, or completing an internship.

3. Consider the things you are good at

The third consideration when choosing a college major is the things you’re naturally good ta. Understanding your natural skills and talents can go a long way in helping you make an informed and confident decision when choosing a major.

It may be your parents’ dream for you to be an artist, but what if you skew more toward business or science? Just because someone else has a degree path in mind doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

4. Consider your salary expectation

When considering which major to pursue, determine how important salary and salary potential weigh in your decision-making process. If you’re motivated by high earnings, pursuing a degree in a STEM-related field may appeal to you.

That said, some students care more about the importance of their work than the salary offered. Popular non-STEM majors include human services, education, and visual or performing arts.

5. Can you handle the coursework?

The fifth consideration when choosing a college major is what the college major needs in terms of man-hours and other resources. 

Some majors may feel harder than others due to factors like the heaviness of homework loads, course expectations, and the frequency of exams. Classes in your major will make up a significant portion of your college course load. Before you declare a major, make sure you understand how rigorous your weekly workload will be.

6. Visit your career advising office

Checking in with your career advisor is an important step to take when deciding on a major.

Your advisor has likely had similar conversations with hundreds of students and can provide insight into picking a college major. They may even propose a major you hadn’t previously considered that meets your academic and career goals.

7. Consider the career trajectory

A career trajectory is a path your jobs take as you move forward, backward, or stay on an even keel during your working years. A career trajectory can look like an upside-down “V,” a bell, or a staircase, depending on how much planning and work you do to get to where you want.

8. Do your electives while you decide

Choosing your college major can and should take time to decide while you figure out, what you like, what you don’t like, your personality, and what you’re actually good at. 

Where does a college student get all this time? That’s what electives are for. Take your elective classes while you make up your don’t. Don’t put false pressure on yourself for no reason.

Take elective classes to give yourself ample time to discover yourself and choose the right college major for yourself. 

9. Consider a double major 

The ninth thing you can consider while choosing a college major is choosing two majors. What happens when you are great at two majors? Do both!

You don’t have to choose one if you want to do both and have the resources to do both. 

10. Remember, you can always change your mind

The final thing to consider when choosing your college major is that it’s not the end of the world. You can change your mind, and you have a right to change your mind. Why? Because you are still in the process of discovering yourself. 

It is entirely possible that between your sophomore and junior year you want something different, and that’s okay. 

With these 10 factors, your question on how to choose a college major should be answered pretty comprehensively. If not, chat me up in the comment section below with any questions or concerns.

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