Choosing the Right College Major for You

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Students often struggle with how to choose a major because they're just beginning to discover who they are. It's OK to not have an exact plan for college and a future career. You can start by choosing a major based on your current interests. Then, using your college experience to learn more about yourself, you can change it if you feel the need.

The major you choose will have an impact on the jobs you’ll qualify for after graduation, so it’s important to use your college experience to determine your long-term career interests. That way, you can pick a major that will help land you a job you love. Here are some key factors to consider so that you can choose the right major for you.

How to Choose a College Major

All students going to college will ultimately have to ask themselves, “What major should I choose?” While it’s a challenging question, the answer will come down to identifying what you’re most passionate about. Studies show that students who enjoy what they are learning about will perform better in their program of choice. If you choose a major because of the influence of others, you may not be as excited and motivated. Consider the advice of friends and family, but remember that the final decision is yours.

Choosing Your Own Major

Choosing your own major motivates you to invest time and money into what you want to do with your life. Consider how much money an individual with that major typically makes, what the job outlook currently is, and if you can see yourself being in that field for a long time. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics can help determine your projected salary and job outlook.

You Don’t Have to Select a Major Right Away

The good news is that there’s no pressure to quickly choose a major. Most colleges don't require students to declare a major until the end of sophomore year. If you prefer to set your path sooner, you can select a concentration as a freshman or even before taking your first class. This gives you the chance to try major-specific classes earlier and change direction if necessary.

The Impact of Major Choice on College Acceptance

The major you choose can affect admission if the college only accepts a certain number of applicants into the program. Research the various programs available at each college to better understand their requirements and any restrictions they have on a particular major. If you choose a program that allows only a limited number of applicants, it may be helpful to apply for early admission and consider multiple colleges.

What Your Major Says About You

When you select a major, you're choosing a specialized field of study that will hopefully translate into a fulfilling career. Is it a major you think will benefit you when applying to jobs? Is it in a subject that matches up with the direction you want your life to take? Your major doesn’t define everything about you, but it does help define a significant part of your life: your career.

Understand the Time Investment for School

As you advance through your college coursework, you'll experience new challenges that affect your time management. Everything from newfound independence to final exams and extracurricular activities could impact your daily schedule. That's why it's important to understand the required time investment for your chosen major.

Study Obligations

Most undergraduate degrees take four years to complete as a full-time student. However, if you plan to become a doctor or lawyer, for example, you'll need to continue your education past an undergraduate degree. Becoming a doctor typically takes an additional four years of medical school and three or more years of residency. Becoming a lawyer will take about three years of law school past your undergraduate study. Before choosing a major, research which degrees you're required to obtain and how long they'll take you to complete.

Not all undergraduate majors require the same amount of effort. For example, a general psychology degree may involve less schoolwork and time commitment than a pre-med degree. Keep in mind that more schoolwork doesn’t necessarily guarantee more post-graduation success and vice versa. When deciding on a major, determine how much time you want to invest in your education and if that major fits into those expectations.

Improving Your Chances of Happiness After Graduation

Finding happiness after graduation depends on what your values are. If you choose a major that aligns well with your life values, you could improve your chances of enjoying life after college. If the major you choose leads you to a career that excites you, then you are probably on the track to happiness. There are other factors that affect happiness, but career choice is an important component of your life.

College is a time to develop the necessary skills for a successful, rewarding career. Reflect on what you are passionate about and explore new interests as you venture through college life. You can always change your mind if you discover a new passion. And if you’re wondering why you should go to college at all, try spending more time researching what majors are available that relate to your current interests.

FAQs

Is changing majors a good idea?

Changing majors is ultimately a good idea if you are struggling in your field of study or find another degree path that better fits with your career goals. Students often change their majors based on newly discovered interests while attending college. Finding where you excel is a big part of the college experience. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, four out of five college students will change their majors at least once. While changing your major could open new opportunities, it's also important to consider the risks of doing so, including the financial impact of adding time to earn a degree.

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When is it too late to change your major?

The earlier you change your major, the more likely it is that you will complete your undergraduate program within four years.[4] Changing your major in your first or at the beginning of your second year is ideal. However, if your newly selected major is similar to your original one, you may be able to make the switch without having to take extra classes. If you determine that you want to change fields, you may have to take more classes or enroll in an additional semester.

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Is it better to pick a major or apply undecided?

For most colleges, choosing “undecided” as your major will not affect your chances of getting accepted. Admissions officers understand that some students won’t be ready to commit to a degree path right out of high school. However, selecting “undecided” could be harmful if you’re choosing a major that requires you to be admitted as a freshman. It may also be a bad look if you submit college essay that focuses on your love for a certain area of study. In these cases, it’s better to select the major that's most closely aligned with what you're passionate about instead of choosing undecided. If you discover that you're ultimately a better fit in another area of study, you can change your major later on.

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