Can you help me find my major?


Amanda Morris, College Professor, Writer, Advisor, Writing Coach

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Your question is a good one, but you must look inward for the answer. No one can, or should, tell you what to major in. However, I know how much pressure you might be under to find a major and make such important life decisions about your future when you first start college. I implore you to take a breath and relax for a moment. The pressure that family and even teachers and professors can put on students to make major decisions can be overwhelming, I know. But I encourage you to ask yourself this instead: What am I passionate about? What could I do EVERY day, without pay, just because I love it so much? What am I so good at that others come to me for advice about it?

Start there. Start with passion. Start with what excites and motivates you. If you start there, then you can investigate different career paths that your passion might lead to. Once you figure out your passion - that thing you would do any time, any day, as often as possible - then visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook and browse the different occupations and fields that seem to match what you love. Most of the jobs listed there also list preferred majors, but you'll be happy to know that most careers do NOT require a specific major, which means you can choose a major that excites you, along with your passion. You might be able to back yourself into a good major by first figuring out your passion, and then taking your passion into some occupation research that will lead you to a sensible major.

For more motivation and inspiration on finding your passion first, check out Larry Smith's blunt and eye-opening TED Talk about the importance of finding and following your passion: "Why you will fail to have a great career."

Now go find your passion! The major and career path will follow. :)

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Have you considered taking a "gap" year between high school and college? This would be a time when you could volunteer or travel (or travel to volunteer) and gain a completely different kind of life experience that might inform your educational interests? I know that it might feel odd not to start college immediately, but taking a year to engage in a different effort might also save you money and time down the road. Here is a link to "gap year fairs". This website offers a list of opportunities and snapshots of what various programs offer. Just a thought!

Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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If only there were an easy way to answer this question for you! I suggest you have conversations with an advisor or trusted teacher. Also, the career resource center is on campus to help guide you. If you aren't sure of a major, you can still start college: just be sure to take your gen ed classes first so you aren't taking a bunch of credits you won't be able to use toward the major you land on. And remember minors and double majoring if you can't pick one field!

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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Great advice. When my advisees ask these questions of me, I suggest using general education credits to explore different areas. Take courses in fields you would never have considered. This is a GREAT way to discover passions you may not have even known you have. I second the idea that changing your major is fine. You aren't signing your name in blood when you sign up for a major. You have room to change your mind. And remember minors. They give you a credential for a different passion or skill that you can use when applying for jobs. Consider a writing or digital media minor to impact your resume.

Anonymous, Former graduate student

Deciding what to major in can be a difficult choice. There are many majors out there and some schools have majors that other schools don't have. A great place to start in deciding a major is thinking about what you want to be or what subject you enjoy studying. This will greatly help you narrow down your options. For example, if you want to be a doctor, majoring in biology or biochemistry is a great idea. Is math your favorite subject? You can try majoring in engineering or programming.

If you're still not entirely about what you want to major in college, you can always go in as an undeclared major. There, you can get a taste of other majors and hopefully get a good sense of what you want to major in for the rest of your time in college. Finally, if you go into college as a certain major and find yourself not liking it, don't be afraid to talk to counselors and consider changing majors. They can help you through the process and if the major doesn't differ too much from your initial major, the process is pretty painless. I have friends that went to my college as one type of engineer and then changed to another type of engineer. For them, changing majors was quick and painless. Best of luck to you in deciding your major!

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