5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Picking a Major
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Choosing a college major can be tricky. While some students luck out and know what they want to pursue from the get-go, the rest of us tend to struggle.
If you're feeling some doubt and apprehension right now, you're not alone. One study found that nearly two-thirds of students feel overwhelmed by the process of picking a major.
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It makes sense that students feel that way. "What major should I choose" is a question that will have a massive impact on your academic and professional career. You don't want to settle on a major and find out later it wasn't the best decision.
So how do you decide?
While it's not easy to find the perfect major out of all your options, you can narrow down the choices. Ask yourself the following questions before picking a major. You can also consider the advice of academic advisors and college grads that we've interviewed to help you make a decision.
Five questions to ask before picking a major
What are my interests?
It's a simple question, but it's the right one to kick things off. Your college major can be more enjoyable if it reflects your interests.
Lorena Laverde, an academic advisor at New Jersey City University, often asks her students to consider what they're passionate about and the areas they excel in before choosing a major.
"If you can link all of those things together, it just makes everything more fruitful," Laverde said. "It's not going to be as intense or hard because they're enjoying it. It'll be more memorable and connected."
What gives me energy or confidence?
In theory, what you're passionate about will lead to the most fulfilling major. But what if you honestly don't know?
Try looking at it a different way. Ask yourself what gives you energy or builds your confidence. What makes you smile or boosts your mood? For example, if gaming is one of your favorite hobbies, you might be surprised to discover several majors that can lead directly into this field, such as game design, art design, writing, and coding.
If you're still unsure about what gives you energy or confidence, start by eliminating things that you know you don't like. That should help make your options less overwhelming.
Do I want to pursue my passion or be practical?
Do you pick the major you love or the one that guarantees you'll bring home the bacon? The ideal career will have both. If not, you may want to find a balance between the two.
For example, most journalism majors know that their traditional career path — mainly as reporters for newspapers — is declining. But they can also use their writing skills in other settings, such as tech companies, marketing firms, or nonprofit organizations.
The hardest part isn't necessarily choosing the major but deciding what to do with it after college. There's nothing wrong with pursuing a passion as long as you have a wide enough scope or game plan.
"The perfect situation is finding a passion that you can turn into a profession, but it doesn't always work out like that in real life," said Chaz Wyland, founder of SnowmobileHow, a snowmobiling guide and review site. "While you want a major that is interesting to you, you also need to approach the decision from a practical standpoint."
Is this major what I want or what someone else wants?
Many students choose a major based on pressure from outside influences, such as parents, family, and friends. While taking advice or encouragement into consideration can be helpful, it's not always the best move for a big decision like choosing a major.
According to Phil Ollenberg, an assistant registrar at Bow Valley College, making the distinction between a personal choice and pressure is something to consider before choosing your major.
"I've advised countless students who were applying to a college or university program on pressure from their parents," Ollenberg said. "In 10 years time, are you going to be happy with that choice, or will you resent the people who pressured you into the choice?"
What's the day-to-day like on the job?
Your main focus likely revolves around getting a degree. But it's important to also think about what life will be like 10 years from now after you've started your career.
"We want to make sure students visualize themselves in their place of employment," Laverde said. "If you're an introvert, are you going to be excited about giving presentations and workshops and teaching?"
Laverde recommends internships or job shadowing opportunities as two possibilities for deciding if your career path is right for you.
Or, consider reaching out to professionals in your field. Ask them what they like about their job and what challenges they face. The results might be different than what you expect and could potentially influence what you choose for your college major.
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