College is an exciting time in life – not only do you have the opportunity to leave home, but you get to choose what to study so that you can start a great career when you graduate!
If you ask most high school students, they probably have some sort of idea about what they would like to do for a job once they graduate – engineer, social worker, accountant, teacher… the list goes on and on.
But what happens to those students who aren’t exactly sure what they want to do yet?
These students often enter college with an undecided major and take general education courses until they truly discover what interests them.
Before I jump into all the details, I want to reiterate that there is NOTHING wrong with going into college as an undeclared major. Students usually spend the first year taking general education courses and foundation courses anyway, so it’s not like these individuals will be behind in the long run.
If you are a college student who is struggling to choose a college major, then you’ve come to the right place!
Listed below, you will find 5 tips to help you choose a college major. My hope is that you will walk away from this article with some ideas to help you uncover your true interests while also learning a little more about yourself.
Remember, declaring a college major is not the end all be all. If you take a few courses and find out that the one you choose really doesn’t interest you, then it’s totally okay to change it (I was originally an advertising/public relations major and switched to human services – it was a huge change but I’m so glad I did it).
Alright, enough of the mumbo jumbo – let’s go over some ways to help you choose a college major!
1. Take Personality and Career Assessments
Some people are critical of personality and career assessments, but they are extremely useful tools if you answer the questions honestly.
One site where you can take a variety of these for free is www.cfnc.org. Although this site is affiliated with the state of North Carolina, students from other states can still sign up.
Once you create your account, you will have access to a variety of services, such as the assessments, college major information, career statistics, and school information. In order to find the personality and career assessments, head on over to the ‘Plan’ tab and click on ‘For Career’.
In the top center of the next screen, you should see a link that says ‘Learn About Yourself’ – click that link to be taken to a collection of assessments. As you go through each one, you’ll begin to learn more about what interests you have, what skills you’ve acquired, what your work values are, if you have a particular learning style, and any careers that fit your personality type.
Taking these various surveys is a great way to help you choose a college major because you will be able to see different aspects of yourself on a screen. Once you physically see your interests written down, you may begin to notice where these interests have developed from.
Another great feature of the CFNC site is that it uses your answers to show you occupations that might be attractive to you. By simply clicking on the career choices, you have access to important information about that specific job, such as education level needed, interests that fit the occupation well, and some average salary information (though keep in mind that it’s tailored for North Carolina).
You can also find additional resources on the CollegeBoard site (which you’re probably familiar with if you’ve signed up for the SAT or ACT before).
2. Take Diverse General Education Courses
One of the best ways to choose a college major is to actually take courses in a subject that potentially interests you. Since every college requires a certain amount of general education hours, odds are that there are at least one or two that will count for your general education hours and possibly be prerequisites for higher level classes for a particular major.
Let me provide an example so you know what I’m talking about:
TCU has a core curriculum that covers math, oral communication, written communication, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts. Let’s say a college student is an undeclared major but has an interest in psychology. The student could enroll in an introduction to psychology course and that would satisfy the social sciences requirement while also giving the student a chance to decide whether psychology is a major they would like to pursue. If it is, then the student not only has a general education course satisfied, but they’ve also completed a course for the psychology major (known as double dipping).
3. Visit with a Career Services Professional On-Campus
Your college has a career services center to help you with all types of things, including ways to help you choose a college major. Although you are truly the only person who can make the ultimate decision about what major you would like to declare, there are plenty of people around campus and in your life who can help you along the way.
I honestly think that the career services center is one of the most overlooked places on college campuses, especially since so many things can be done online these days.
If you are struggling to decide on which college major to declare, then make an effort to meet with a career services specialist to discuss you options. You may have the opportunity to take other personality and career assessments that cost money to the general public but are free to students. You should also find plenty of literature, resources, and statistics on each college major that is offered at your school.
You may feel like your brain is going to explode after taking in the wealth of information available to you about each program, but it’s a worthwhile process!
4. Explore the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook
If you want to get a glimpse of the projected job growth for a particular occupation, then the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook is the perfect resource for you. Some students use job growth and average salaries as a way to choose a college major, so take advantage of this free tool and do some digging for yourself.
In addition to the job growth and average salary rates, you’ll also be able to read a summary of the occupation, what a typical work environment is like, and what some similar occupations are.
5. Conduct an Informational Interview
Still struggling to choose a college major?
Try setting up an informational interview with some professionals who work in careers that you are interested in pursuing. On campus, you’ll find professors who have experiences in all types of work fields, so politely ask them if you could schedule a time to meet with them to ask some questions. It’s alright if you haven’t had a class with them yet – college professors are there to help you!
If you would rather go out into the community, try getting in touch with a local company or organization that staffs workers in the field you’re interested in (i.e. social workers at a nonprofit foster care agency). A good place to start would be calling the main office line so that the receptionist can direct your call to the appropriate person.
When you do get in contact with someone who you would be interested in talking to, make sure you introduce yourself, tell them you are interested in learning more about their field of work, and then ask if they would have any free time to speak with you and answer a few questions. Keep in mind that professionals are busy people and may not always be able to meet with you or work around your schedule, so you may need to talk to a few people before you actually get an informational interview scheduled.
I would recommend meeting with this person face-to-face that way you can establish a connection – if that’s not possible, try scheduling a phone interview instead. At the end of the question and answer session, ask the professional if they would be willing to answer any future questions you have through email or other communication outlets.
You never know… they could be a great connection to have later on when you are looking for your first internship or job!
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