How to Pick Your College Major

You don't want to take the wrong classes. You don't want to pick the wrong major. You want to graduate. You want to get a good job. You want peace.

It’s OK. Breathe.

While picking a college major is important, it’s not a life sentence. In fact, it’s pretty common to change majors halfway through your college career. Interests change. Priorities change. Where we ultimately see ourselves being in 10 years is rarely where we end up. So give yourself some time to really think it over. Like most things in life, it’s a process.

So, here are some tips (and questions to ask yourself) to get you started on the process:

  1. Know Yourself: Think about your areas of interest, strengths, talents, and personal goals. What are you passionate about? Chances are, there’s a major for it. Also, think about what’s most important to you, career-wise. Ask yourself: What are my priorities? Is it money? Creative expression? Helping people? Where do I see myself in five years? Ten years? What would I be happy doing the rest of my life?
  2. Do Your Research: Don’t just know yourself—know your major. Everyone’s thought about being a doctor, but few have the willpower to get through organic chemistry. Before you settle on a particular subject make sure you’ve researched it extensively to know what you’re signing up for. Ask yourself: What’s the workload for the major like? Am I willing to keep up with the demands? How will it affect other aspects of my life? Will this help prepare me for the career I want? What will I learn that I can apply in the working world?
  3. Don't be Afraid to Experiment: Ah, experimentation! That’s what college is all about. So challenge yourself with a wide range of classes. You may surprise yourself by discovering strong interests in areas you hadn’t considered before. Take the time to really think about your general, elective, and required courses. While their purpose is to help make you a more well-rounded scholar, they’re also a lot like an appetizer sampler at a restaurant. Take different courses to see which ones might interest you in learning more.
  4. Take Your Time: There’s no rush. The majors will all be there when you’re ready. In fact, most colleges don't expect you to declare a major until your sophomore year, so take time to mull things over. A thought-out decision will likely lead you to professional success. Use this time to knock out required courses first.
  5. Have a Plan B: If puppetry is what you're passionate about and your school has that as a major, by all means go for it. However, think about supporting this choice with a broader, more practical second major or minor. Not only will it provide you with additional skills, it could make you a more attractive candidate for a job after college. Think about it: Who wouldn’t want a marketing manager with the puppeteering skills to pull all the right strings?

Above all else, when it comes to that final decision on a major remember one thing: Pursue what you love first. Everything else will sort itself out in the end.

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