Choosing a Major in College

The vast majority of students will apply to college as “undeclared”. Although some students know exactly what they want to be and what they want to do for a career at 18, most do not. This is why almost all colleges and universities offer the undeclared major. This gives students two years to decide what they want to do by taking a few classes in several different subjects – our Orange County college consultants are here to help.

college-major                    Credit: Perry C. Riddle / Los Angeles Times

However, by the beginning of junior year all students must declare a major. Keep in mind you are not limited to your decision for a full 30 years, as many people have two or three careers in a lifetime but you will be stuck with this major for two years at a minimum, so it’s important to choose wisely (READ: “College Application Crunch Time“).

There are a few things you can think about when it is time should use a major.

OneThink about what you’re good at. Take a look at your grade sheet; in which classes do you have straight A’s? Do you seem to be really good at science? Is math definitely your thing? Perhaps you wrote some fabulous A grade papers on literature? It’s important to do something for your job that you’re good at, otherwise you will be struggling through eight hours of every day.

TwoIt’s also important to think about what you enjoy. Perhaps you have all A’s in your psychology classes but maybe you really don’t like being around people. In which case, working as a therapist may not be for you. Sometimes a dilemma appears when a student really likes one subject, say engineering, but their grades are not quite up to par as compared to other subjects. It’s important to have a balance but if you feel like, although you really like something, that you would not be hired in that particular field it’s something to consider (READ: “8 Reasons Applicants Fail to Get into the College of Their Choice“).

ThreeTalk to an academic counselor. If you are still undecided as junior year is approaching, it’s a really good time to talk with an academic counselor because they can help you narrow down your choices. They may be able to tell you about some different job options within different majors.

FourThink about how much money you want to make per year. You may really love one subject but find that it simply won’t allow for the lifestyle you enjoy. I would advise you not to overwhelm yourself with the thought of money but in reality it does pay the bills.

FiveThink about what you would like your normal workday to be. Are you happy working a typical 8 to 5? Would you prefer to work longer hours if you can be at home? Or would you like to do part-time work so that you can pursue personal objectives? There are many online sites that will tell you both the salary and the typical workday of specific professions. This is information that you can take to your academic counselor when you are thinking about your decision.

SixTalk to a few people who work in the fields that you are considering going into. For example, if you were thinking about going into medicine, ask within your network if you can sit down and have a straightforward conversation with the doctor. Ask him or her how long it took to get into the field and what their normal day is like. Perhaps you would like to be a teacher, in which case call up one of your old teachers from high school or ask within your network and try to find out a little bit about their lifestyle and their day. Students can contact people in just about any profession (READ: “Navigating the Basics of the College Application Process“).

Many students don’t feel like committing to a specific career at the young age of 20. This is entirely fine and there are many majors that offer a broader range of skills that students can use in many different careers. For instance, a degree in communications, English, or business can lead a person to many different professions. Ultimately, just think about what you’re good at and what would make you happy and what would allow you to pay all of your bills on time. If you find out in ten years that you made a mistake, it’s totally okay because most people have more than one career in the 21st-century.

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