How to Choose Your Major

If you’ve been exploring colleges, chances are you’ve also been hearing some version of “What do you want to do with your life?” from parents, teachers, friends, and even college admissions staff. Sometimes that question can be a little intimidating, and often the honest answer is simply: “I don’t know.” If you’re finding yourself among the “I don’t know” crowd, fear not. There are numerous ways to work on developing a more definitive answer.

Get involved.

Join a new club or activity. This is your time to explore! Check out the art club, try out for a sport, or join student government. Does your school have a stellar drama program? Or maybe there’s an incredible local non-profit that’s looking for volunteers. Take advantage of the opportunities surrounding you in order to gain new experiences. People often stumble into their passions when trying something outside their regular sphere of activity. You might find a new hobby you love—or you might not. But you’ll never know unless you try!

Do some online research.

Perhaps you know what your interests are, but aren’t sure how those interests translate to careers. A great place to do some career exploration is the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Not only will it tell you what jobs are out there, you’ll also be able to read about what kind of education is required, what you’d likely be paid, and whether or not the need for workers in those fields is on the rise.

Interview a professional.

Quite possibly the best way to explore different major and career areas is to simply ask someone with first-hand experience. Family members or friends can be great resources. Your parents might not work in healthcare, but they probably know someone who does. Or perhaps your neighbor has a degree in computer science, or the family whose children you nanny owns a restaurant. Take advantage of your connections and reach out, asking if they’d be willing to answer a few questions about their work. You’ll find most people are excited by opportunities to share their passions. Who knows? You might just find that excitement infectious.

Try job shadowing.

If you’ve been considering a particular career field, but aren’t completely sure if you want to commit to that rigorous nursing program or those extra years of law school, a “day in the life” might be just what you need to make a decision. Ask a professional in your field of interest if you can “shadow” them to gain a fuller understanding of what it looks like to work in their field. The experience will be invaluable to helping you decide if a specific major or career is right for you.

Talk with professors.

Visit a college campus and speak with professors in different departments. Ask to schedule a meeting or sit in on a class. Sometimes colleges will even host events tailored specifically for students exploring different career options. Learn how different majors will translate into the workplace. Ask how many students attend grad school after graduation versus entering the workforce. Gain an understanding of how experiences in a certain field will help you build a practical plan for the future.

Be open-minded.

Just because you’ve never thought of yourself as a science person doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look into biology if that’s something that interests you. As you explore different majors and career options, you might find that one area is not what you expected or another is a surprisingly good fit. Be flexible and willing to adjust as you venture into the next stage of your journey.

Don’t panic.

If, after jumping in and exploring a number of different areas, you still don’t have a clear idea of what you want to major in, don’t panic. You’re not alone. A significant number of students begin college undecided. Better yet, of the students who do declare a major their freshman year, one third will change their mind before they graduate. Uncertainty is far from the worst possibility. Instead of worrying, utilize your college experiences to continue exploring different disciplines. The required general education classes at any liberal arts school are intentionally designed to expose you to a wide variety of academic and professional fields as you begin your college career. Who knows, your Monday 8 a.m. class might just change your life.

Think you’ve identified a major of interest? Sign up for a visit at Bethel, and we can connect you with a professor in that subject area.