Choosing what to major in when you go to college can be confusing, even if you know what you want to be when you graduate. Here’s how to choose a college major, based on my experience getting three university degrees.
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When I went to university for my first undergrad degree I majored in my passion: psychology. That was a mistake, because the degree is too general and the jobs too low-paying. A decade later, I got another my Education degree. I thought teaching would be a good career for me, but I was wrong. I recently earned my Master of Social Work (MSW), and I’ve learned a lot about how to choose a major as a student. I also learned many ways to avoid student loan debt after college.
Choosing a college major sets the tone for the rest of your career – but don’t let this scare you. You can change your major, change your career, and even change your life if you need to. These tips on how to choose a college major will help you decide on a direction for your studies.
How to Choose a College Major
If you’re a freshman, read How to Prepare for College – What You Need to Know.
I think it’s a good idea to take at least one year of college courses before you decide on a major. You can even take a couple of online university courses, which are less time and energy-consuming than in-person classes.
Take a variety of college courses
You can’t choose a college major if you don’t know what chemistry courses are like, as opposed to biology or nursing or engineering or philosophy courses! In your first year of college, take a wide variety of first year classes. Taste and see what you like. The beauty of a general arts or science degree is that your options are quite wide – depending on what college you’re attending.
You may not have to choose a college major until your second or even your third year of school, depending on your college. Talk to your college adviser about your options, as well as the disadvantages for not choosing a major in college until later.
Are you interested in a writing career? Read How to Decide if You Should Major in Journalism.
Think about your long-term career goals
If I was trying to decide how to choose my college major when I was 19, I would never have dreamed I’d wind up owning my own blogging business. I am an entrepreneur at heart. I love being self-employed, love reading business magazines, love discussing marketing strategies. If you’re struggling to choose your college major, you may not know what your long-term career goals are. And that’s okay!
I encourage you to start thinking about how you want to spend your days, how much money you want to make, and what you want to dedicate your life to.
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Talk to students in different faculties
When I was a psychology student at the University of Alberta, one of my best friends was a chemistry student. I was fascinated by her coursework, labs, experiments, and assignments because they were so different than mine. If you have no idea how to choose a college major, try to connect with students in different faculties. Talk to them about their classes, assignments, interests.
Remember what college is for
Your college experience isn’t just about preparing for a successful career! It’s about experiencing campus life, opening your mind, connecting with people, networking for the future, learning to communicate, and prepare for life after college. Choosing a major is important, but it may be less important than getting the full college experience. If you want to go on to grad school, your application will reflect who you are as a person – not what college major you choose.
If you don’t think you can get the “full college experience” because you’re financially strapped, read How to Get Money for College.
Talk to a college adviser about choosing a major
I always thought I knew what I was doing when I went into university, but in hindsight I see that I just rushed into psychology without thinking about it. Even if you think you know how to choose a college major, I encourage you to talk to a guidance counsellor or advisor. You may be making an impulse decision based on things you aren’t even aware of, such as a parent telling you that you should major in X or Y in college.
Don’t be swayed by the media’s opinion on the “best college major”
There are lots of lists of the best and worst college majors in lots of magazines and newspapers – as well as on blogs and websites. I encourage you not to choose a college major based on those recommendations! Last month, I read that dental hygienists are the happiest workers in the world…but that doesn’t mean I’d be happy working as a hygienist! You may read articles on how to choose a college major that focus on return on your education investment…but then you might get stuck working in a job you hate for the rest of your life.
If you’re paying your way through college, read 10 Highest Paying Jobs for College Students.
I welcome your thoughts on these tips on how to choose a college major. May you be filled with clarity, insight, and confidence as you think about your future. May you be blessed with courage, strength, and acceptance of what is.
“Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart.” – Indian Proverb.
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