As kids, it seemed like we all knew what we wanted to do when we grew up—fireman, astronaut, doctor, teacher, or engineer. But our journey of transformation – from a kid, to a pupil, into a college student – brings us some of the most turbulent times and realizations. By the time we hit college and are required to choose a major, our career paths don’t seem as simple anymore.
For every aspirational graduate student, the time to choose a major eventually arrives. For some individuals, those who know exactly what they want to major in when they enter college, selecting a major is as easy as following a life-long dream. For others, rather majority of them, it is a challenging process rife with anxiety.
Choosing a college major is an artful balance of synthesizing interests, skills, and personality strengths while gaining experience outside of the classroom. It is the first step towards developing a foundation that you will continue to build on for the rest of your life.
Today’s college students are encouraged to weigh several factors before choosing an area of focus for a four-year degree program. Following are some of the considerations:
Have a Broader Vision
Begin with your destination and make sure your choice aligns with your long-term goals. Start by considering your post-graduation plans while choosing a major. This may seem too sudden for a sophomore in college, but it is a certainly useful step. Take courses in areas that you’re really interested in, and then think about which subject truly inspires you. It’s a must to use the freshman year to get the required core classes and prerequisite courses enlightening your career path.
Think thoroughly about your career choice and take timely advices from career counselors, parents and professors.
It would be easier for you to narrow your list of potential majors if your long-term goals are fairly specific. Conduct online and offline research to determine which degrees are required for your future career or field. Following and interviewing people, having careers you are interested in, is a great way to figure out what you might want to study. Internships, camps, classes at community colleges, and volunteering opportunities are all excellent chances to become more immersed in subjects you may not regularly study at school.
Certain career paths may seem to require a specific major at first glance, but research reveals there’s always some amount of flexibility towards the end. If your plans include going to a law school, for instance, you would obviously prefer a pre-law undergraduate concentration. However, law schools accept students from a wide range of backgrounds since the field of law has many specialized topics.
Explore Your Options
It’s important to get a wide range of experiences if you are not sure what you want to do after college. College students can explore a wide range of real-time fieldwork during their college years through internships, volunteering opportunities, college jobs, and co-curricular activities. Gaining a wide range of experiences will help the student in developing new knowledge and skills.
Don’t feel too panicked if you were only able to do surface-level exploration into choosing a college major at high school. High school is a high-pressure endeavor; your interest keeps on transforming and is influenced as you progress towards college (and throughout your life!). Just fix what you can and remain thoughtful and curious about possible courses of study.
Quite evidently, nowadays college prepares students to be critical thinkers and provides a foundation for students to create a worldview based on learning from a variety of disciplines.
Switching Your Major
One of the most exciting aspects of the college life is that it introduces you to new subjects and fosters new passions. Even students who were quite sure about what they wanted to study often change their mind. You might enter college with a vision to major in Physics, but later discover a burgeoning love for Political Science or Sociology.
Although, at any university/college, most majors have similar requirements for credit hours, they can widely differ in admissions prerequisites and in the type of curriculum that they use. Always remember to investigate the requirements for admission to all the programs that you’ve shortlisted while compiling a list of majors that align with your interests and career goals. If you change your major late in the game, it may take more than the traditional four years to earn a degree, which can have a bad impact on your resume.
There’s a probability of you being tempted to select a major that resembles a lucrative job description. You might risk your career by narrowing your options if you define your education too closely. Take the studies that will help you realize your dream, but do not lock yourself on one particular path. Thus, in many ways, choosing a major is a balancing act. Having a goal in your mind is important, but keeping the lateral options open is equally vital.
Having an overspecialized degree can lead to future employers overlooking your resume. Also, very few people stay with one career for their entire life. Earning a degree in a common field – like biology, psychology or English– can also be a very useful strategy if you are not sure about your future career. A degree teaches critical thinking and communication paves the way for adapting to a variety of environments, while many of the industry-specific skills are learned in the workplace through experience.
Create Your Own Major
Some schools allow you to design your own major. But an essential requirement is to have a pretty specific, cohesive plan about what that major will be. This option is the best for people who have a very clear idea of what they want to study and want to closely sharpen on a specific topic in a specific field.
Students typically tend to choose a major based on career-related factors i.e. job availability and employment rates in their proposed field. Generally speaking, careers in medicine, business administration and STEM-related fields offered the highest annual salaries; meanwhile, careers in social sciences, arts and humanities paid quite low wages.
Employment rates might differ considering professionals who enter the workforce with a bachelor’s degree and those who go on for further studies to earn a master’s or other advanced credential. Several studies show that employment rates are varied between new graduates and bachelor’s degree-holders with years of professional experience.
Comprehensively, while choosing a major, it is important to consider the overall program cost, salary expectations, and employment rates for employees in the field and advanced degree opportunities. In due course, students must decide which field will offer the best ROI, for their postsecondary education.