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Major Decisions: Tips On Choosing a College Major

Most students aren’t required to choose a major until their junior year of college. But no matter how far along you are in college–or even high school–chances are you’ve been stressing at least a bit about what to study. You’ve likely been asking yourself important questions, like “What type of classes will I have to take?” “What kind of job can I get after graduation?” and “Is this a subject I actually like?” Avoid major stress with these tips.

Get some core help
Core classes give each student a common base of knowledge and skills that are important and crucial for students. Core classes will help you discover your interests. They present students with an overview of areas–ones they might consider for a major. On the other hand, you’ll also have some elective credits to play around with at college, perfect for testing other areas that may not be part of your required core. Perhaps you think photography may be your calling. You won’t know until you take a class. One great thing about college is that there are so many options available to you.

Other options
Perhaps your problem is that you’re torn between two very distinct areas of study. Luckily, if you plan your courses the right way (with a little help from your adviser), you may be able to graduate with a double major or with a major and a minor field of study. Some colleges even offer students the opportunity to create their own major through independent study. Discuss your options with your academic adviser.

How important is your major?
The answer really depends on your intentions once you graduate college. For example, if you plan to attend graduate school for biology, there may be requirements and prerequisites that would necessitate majoring in biology or a closely related field. On the other hand, law schools and even medical schools admit students with a variety of majors.
The important thing to remember when choosing a major is to pick something in which you have clear aptitude and interest, and one where you can develop skills that can be adapted to the workplace. For instance, majoring in English might not set you on a specific career path, but it will help you master your writing and research skills, which can later be applied in any number of fields. Then again, if you want to become something specific like an accountant or a pharmacist, then naturally you should major in accounting or pharmacy.

Be resourceful
Take advantage of career centers and libraries at your school to do some major research. The College Board Book of Majors, for instance, offers brief descriptions of each major and lists every college that offers them. If it’s future employment that has you concerned, conisider picking up College Majors Handbook with Real Career Paths and Payoffs. In it, you’ll get real statistics on job trends, earnings, and the employment experiences of real college graduates.

You should also speak with students who are currently pursuing the major you’re considering. Find out which courses they’ve taken and if they’ve had the opportunity to get hands-on experience through internships.

Better yet, visit some professors during office hours to ask about their subjects. Professors often work outside academia in their fields, so they can give you valuable insider tips.

Most importantly, do not jump into a major just for the sake of choosing one. Be inquisitive, take a variety of courses, and follow your instincts.

Next to your choice of a college, your choice of a major will be one of the more important decisions to make at this point in your life. It?s a challenge to identify a major that will suit your abilities, interests, and goals as you complete your education and develop career plans.
If you?re finding it a challenge to narrow down your interests to a single major, or if you just aren?t sure which major is for you, begin by thinking about yourself?who you are, what you?re good at, what you like to do, and where you want to be in 10 years.

Look at yourself

Before you start to worry too much about what?s out there in the world of business or psychology or biology, start in your own back yard. Take some time to jot down a few important things about yourself. Do you like to work with numbers or with words? With others or alone? With abstract ideas or solid objects? You can use the answers to these questions to begin to define possible major areas:
? What interests you the most?
? What subjects do you like to study?
? What subjects do you do best in? Why?
? What subjects do you do worst in? Why?
? What has been your greatest accomplishment so far in school?
? Do you like to read?
? Do you read for pleasure?
? Do you retain what you read?
? Are you reasonably comfortable working with numbers?
? Do you like math?
? Can you express your thoughts clearly in writing?

Identify your abilities

In general, it?s best to major in an area that you enjoy studying and have the ability to do well. How would you answer the following questions?
? What subjects are you good at?
? What subjects do you struggle with?
? What subjects come easily to you?
If you major in a subject that you are interested in learning, you?ll feel more motivated to study. And the more you study, the better your grades are likely to be?especially if you have some ability in the subject.
Many employers look carefully at grades when they recruit on college campuses, so the higher your grades, the more competitive you may be. If you plan to pursue a graduate degree, you?ll want your undergraduate grades to represent the best work you?re capable of doing.

Imagine your future

Use your answers to these questions to define your personal and professional goals:
? What do you want to be doing 10 years after college?
? Where do you want to live?
? What income do you want to have?
? What will be most important in your life?
? What do you secretly want to do?
? What are the most important qualities in a job: flexible hours, control over decision-making, fun co-workers, lots of travel, etc.
Once you have a sense of what you value, think again about possible majors that correspond to your interests and abilities. Which ones are a good fit with these values? Which ones look promising?

A graduation plan
A graduation plan provides a framework for your education. Within this framework, you can create a personalized path to graduation. You and your academic advisor will want to review your graduation plan each year.

Having a plan helps you answer questions like: Should I take summer session classes? If I change my major, can I still graduate in four years? How many electives can I take? Can I do a minor? You and your advisor will look at all of these things as you work on your graduation plan during your first year.