Your Guide to Selecting a Major

Image by Saulo Mohana,

Image by Saulo Mohana,

If you haven’t decided on a major, you’re not alone. At least half of college-bound students are undecided about their majors.

It’s a difficult choice to make, especially when it feels like you’re making a life-long commitment. With hundreds of options to choose from, it’s no wonder that making this decision can feel a little overwhelming.

Selecting a college major is a personal choice dictated by several factors, including your interests, strengths, attraction to a particular subject area, and your individual value system. Taking the time to research your options will make it much easier to make an informed decision that you are much more likely to be happy with.

Undeclared or undecided major

While many students feel stressed about not knowing what they want to study, this is quite a normal feeling. Choosing an undecided major could turn out to be a blessing in disguise since it will give you the opportunity to explore different ideas, discover your interests, and find your strengths before you settle on something.

You will have the chance to explore different classes, and you may even find that the one that peaks your interest is something entirely different than what you would have imagined. You will gain exposure to various teaching styles, some of which may work better for you than others. Be sure to work closely with an academic advisor to get the best out of the experience.

For many students, the added benefit is that they end up meeting and socializing with many different people. Rather than just heading to events focused on a single major, you end up attending various on-campus happenings and get to know more people.

Double major or major/minor programs

When you choose a double major, you receive one degree with two majors that are typically related and integrate with each other. You would need to complete the requirements for both majors, as well as the general education requirements and those of your home school. Concentrating in a secondary area can be extremely valuable and marketable, which many employers look for these days. It also shows you are willing to take on challenging tasks.

Since earning a double major takes more time and commitment, you should carefully weigh your time, finances, interests, and patience when deciding what makes sense for you. Speak with faculty in your major and advisors at the Career Center about the benefits and drawbacks.

Choosing a combination of majors and minors can increase your marketability and better prepare you for the career you want while being less demanding than a double major. Think about minors that would complement your major, such as a subject from the liberal arts if you are studying a major in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). You gain valuable skills that can be of benefit in any career, such as effective communication and problem solving.

This option tends to suit students with a variety of interests, who wish to incorporate these into their studies. Of course, there are other ways to gain experience, such as completing internships, taking part in research opportunities, studying abroad, taking more classes than required, or joining clubs.

Research the prospects

When it comes to making a decision, research is your best friend. Take time to study and analyze your interests, values and skills. Speak to students studying majors you are interested in and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out if they have student organizations and set up a meeting or ask about attending an event.

Also, speak to faculty that teaches in that area – most professors will even allow you to listen in on a class, so make the most of the opportunity. Find out which textbooks are required, visit a bookstore, and give the books a browse.

You may find that an industry professional in your chosen field earns much more in a different country, so it may be worth spending time studying abroad. Especially if your chosen field requires a thorough understanding of local legislation, such as a health and safety manager. The more information you gather, the easier it will be to make an informed decision.

Pursue your passion

Choosing a major in a subject matter you love or feel passionate about can make a big difference to your level of engagement, and ultimately, your grades. If you loved math at school and excelled at it, then why not pick a major in science?

You may think that the wiser choice would be to select a major based on those careers demonstrating the most rapid growth. After all, you want to increase your chances of securing a well-paying job after you graduate.

The reality is that job markets can change very quickly, so while a career may be in high demand today, that might not still be true in four to five years’ time. Furthermore, 65% of students will end up in jobs that haven’t even been created yet. If you choose something you are passionate in, then everything else will fall into place.

Get hands-on experience

If you think you may be interested in pursuing a particular career, but aren’t sure about what it would entail on a daily basis, then why not intern or volunteer? Gaining work experience in your preferred field of study will give you valuable insight that you just wouldn’t get from a textbook.

If you’re thinking of building a career in social work, ask if you can volunteer at the local shelter. You gain hands-on experience and get a real taste of what the job is like – the good and the bad.

If you find it’s not the job for you, then give something else a go. Exploring a variety of pursuits will help you discover which career path is right for you. It also offers you the chance to connect with professionals in your field, which can help with employment opportunities down the line.

This article was contributed by guest author Mackenzie Fox.

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