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Taking Time to Choose Your Undergraduate Major

Stay calm, do extensive research and consider all your options to make the right decision.


One of the most important decisions you make as a college student is choosing what your major will be. For many students, the answer is not clear right away. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 75 percent of students in the United States end up changing their majors at least once. It is further estimated that students change their majors as many as three times over the course of their college career.

Here are 10 tips on how to select your major in college.

 

1. Don’t be nervous if you are unsure about what to choose.
This is very normal and many students are in the same boat. So, trust that eventually, you will be in a position to make up your mind. Don’t assume that something is wrong with you because you are taking time to figure things out.

 

2. What is your passion? What drives you?
These are two of the most important questions to ask yourself. Your parents, friends, faculty members, advisers and fellow students may be well meaning but this is about your life and career. So, choose a major that interests you.

 

3. Meet your academic adviser early on.
They have, most likely, worked with a countless number of students over the years. Hence, they can provide a wealth of information and insight to help you decide.

 

4. Make a list of possible majors.
Do extensive research on each one. Start out by visiting their websites to check out, in particular, the course requirements and any internship or lab experiences that may be required. How do these sound to you? Be honest while answering.

 

5. Take advantage of general education requirements in the first two years.
Sample courses from the arts and science streams and, perhaps, some of the professional programs like business, law and medicine.

 

6. Spend time in the Career Services Office.
Check out the employment history of former students in the various majors you are considering. How do these sound to you? Are they up your alley? Do they sound boring or unfulfilling?

 

7. Ask current students about a major you are considering.
This is one of the best ways to get a sense of what a particular major is like. Discuss with several students, asking at least two questions:

1) What do they like most about their major?
2) What do they like the least?

 

8. Contact recent graduates who majored in the same subject area.
This can also be extremely helpful. Apart from the two questions suggested for current students, you may ask the graduates: If they had to do it over again, would they still choose the same subject?

 

9. Attend a class or two, if possible.
Find out if you can attend some classes. This will give you firsthand exposure to the faculty, students and courses.

 

10. Don’t panic if you feel the need to change your major.
Just because you have declared a major, it does not mean it is set in stone. If you discover that your first, or subsequent, choice is not working for you, step back, keep your cool and start the selection process again. Follow the tips mentioned in this article. Eventually, you will find the right program, even if it takes a bit longer to complete all the requirements.

In summary, take time to consider all the options available to you before choosing your major. Be mindful of your passion. Do extensive research. Solicit feedback. And, follow what you believe is right for you.

 

Don Martin is a former admissions dean at Columbia, University of Chicago and Northwestern, and author of “Road Map for Graduate Study.”

Wesley Teter is a former regional director of EducationUSA in India and Central Asia, supported by the U.S. Department of State.