Hey, what’s your major?

This might be the most commonly asked question on a college campus and many students reply with. “Uh…well…I….I don’t know.” College is a pretty expensive way to spend your time if you’re not sure why you’re there or what you’re doing.  Deciding on a college major is a crucial step to determining your college career and spending your time efficiently and economically.

While choosing a major is essential, and critical, it is much easier than it sounds.  The vast majority of students do not know what they want to do and the college campus is the perfect place to learn, discover and make decisions.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know your major after your first college course, the goal is to narrow your focus and learn more about yourself in the process.

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First, think about what types of thing excite you.  No, I’m not talking about your birthday or a video game, think about what industries appeal to you, what jobs look interesting, what gets you motivated? If you’re not sure about any of these questions, start with the career counseling office on campus, they have many self-evaluation tests you can take to help pinpoint your strengths and interests.  Knowing what really engages you is critical.  Perhaps your family wants you to be a doctor but you can’t stand chemistry class and you’d rather study Shakespeare or interview someone?  That is a clue.  You want a major that will get you excited, and keep you motivated, regardless of the context in which it’s presented. So focus first on what you love. Here is a nice article on what to expect as a major (in journalism) written from the insider perspective.

Second, think about what you’re good at. This does not necessarily coincide with what you love. Even if you hate math, does it come easily to you? Are people always asking you to edit their papers or help with their biology homework? What kind of skills do you have? What classes did you get good grades in? While you may not necessary enjoy the subjects you excel in, these will point towards your strengths, and areas you may succeed in.  Choosing a major in an area you have natural talent in will open more opportunities and increase your GPA.

Third, think about what you DON’T want to do.  Does the thought of an office job make you cringe? Do you prefer to work with your hands or work with numbers? Sometimes, if you’re not sure what you want to do, it’s easier to think of the things you know you don’t want to do.  Do you want to make graduate school an option or would you rather not be required to continue into a post-graduate degree?

Last, using the first three steps to narrow down the field of majors, look into what career options are available within those majors.  Talk to individuals in those careers and try to gain a bigger picture. You can also use the college catalog, professors and other students to gain more information needed. At this point you need to honestly evaluate your options and see where your passion lies.

Based on this process of research and self-assessment, you should now have a better idea of the careers/majors you are not interested in pursuing as well as a handful of potential careers/majors that do interest you.