Picking a college major is one of the most critical decisions for any college student. In an ideal situation, the major you choose should open employment doors and offer an impressive return on investment. Also, the major you choose will determine whether you get to graduate on time as planned.
According to college graduation statistics, although graduation rates keep increasing every year, only about 1-in-4 of this year’s college freshmen will have a degree in 4 years. When all college students are considered, the national graduate rate stands at 46%, and the choice of majors plays a significant role.
With so much at stake, the process of settling on a major should be approached cautiously and accurately. This article appreciates the challenging nature of selecting a major and offers valuable insights into navigating the process successfully.
Defining the Concept: What Is a College Major?
Most learners are undecided about their majors by the time they get accepted into their preferred colleges. Even those who think they have made up their minds change their majors at least once before graduation. In truth, students have many options to choose from and several factors to consider before deciding on something that could shape their entire professional careers.
In this sense, a major implies a comprehensive study in a specific academic area, often restricted to one department within a college. In other words, it is the subject a student elects to specialize in when in college. Therefore, your major is your primary field of specialization during your associates or undergrad studies.
The major offers students a complete area of study in a specified field, which qualifies them for entry into a desired profession or a graduate program in the same or related field. The decision on what program to settle on for college is monumental as it could influence your future.
Of course, it should be observed that there are thousands of graduates successfully working in disciplines that have nothing to do with their majors. In other words, your major may not be an accurate predictor of your success after graduation. However, it could shape your appeal in the highly competitive employment market.
The objective is for the student to demonstrate sustained, sophisticated work in a specific area. Of course, some majors prepare students for particular careers. Some colleges also allow learners to choose two majors.
Before choosing your major, research widely. Here are some strategies you can use:
- Shadow and interview professionals in your area of pursuit;
- Read articles and publications on majors;
- Listen to podcasts on different academic programs;
- Focus on your summer interests and explore them further;
- Attend local campus events and ask questions to learn more.
What Factors Should Be Considered When Choosing a Major?
In a sense, majors help communicate how you learn to focus and apply yourself. That said, the major is not intended to prepare you for a specific position or job in the real world. Instead, universities use majors to hypothetically fragment instruction across various departments through a principle of concentration. They allow assessment of comprehension and learning outcomes.
For most college students, the most critical task is deciding their own goals and priorities when selecting a major. There are tons of insights and tips on choosing a major, most of which assume that students have specific goals. Some even tell the learners what their priorities ought to be.
Parents want to have a significant say on the chosen major for some students, given their financial input in funding the degree program. All these considered, picking an area to specialize in can be frustrating. Here are some features to prioritize as you make your pick.
Your Unique Interests
Even if your parents are paying for your education and would like to have a say on your choice of major, you will be the one attending classes and working on projects. So, of course, your interests are a crucial element to consider. If you choose something you dislike, your college education will be stressful as you will lack the motivation to attend class and work on projects.
In other words, it is crucial to make sure that you are interested in the field you choose to study. Spend some time envisioning yourself using some of the skills you would learn in the workforce. Your areas of interest and childhood ambitions come into play when selecting a major to focus your studies.
However, understand that, while your interests will guide your choice, they will not be the primary determining factor when you make your choice. Also, consider going through personal statement examples for college to support your applications.
Your Skills and Abilities
Another essential factor to consider when choosing your major is your skills and abilities. When picking a field that your will study for at least four years, consider your strengths. Of course, this is not to say that your major has to be related to your best subject in high school.
In any case, college is time for exploration, and you may discover new interests and skills as you learn. Also, what you consider your best subject areas may not align with your career goals and other priorities.
The main point to remember here is that you shouldn’t choose to major in a field you know to be your weak point. For instance, if your math grades were less than impressive consistency throughout high school, choosing a math-heavy program for university would be ill-advised. Instead, consider picking a major if you are sure that you will perform well in most of your academic projects.
Another crucial factor to prioritize is how much the program costs. College is already expensive, which is why any additional costs associated with a major have to be factored in when making this critical choice. Ask whether your major will require you to make trips or relocate at some point during the program. Make sure to factor in all the expenses involved.
Also, expect to pay more if you choose a major only offered by a private university or a public college in another state. Tuition rates tend to be relatively higher for out-of-state students. Living expenses will also be higher if you have to relocate. Considering that combining academics and part-time work can be challenging, consider whether you are prepared to move to study your preferred major.
The cost of studying a major may also be higher if the program demands an extensive amount of education. Fields like law, engineering, and medicine may take longer for degree programs and be more expensive. You may need a greater level of financial commitment to complete your program in such fields.
Future Earning Projections
One of the main reasons why students attend college is to prepare them for future employment and improve their earning potential. In other words, forecasted income potential will likely play an essential role in determining your major selection.
Although it is essential to consider future earnings, it is not an exact science. The amount of money you will make in future roles will be determined by a host of factors that cannot be accurately predicted.
That said, if your desire is a get high pay, you have to be sensible when selecting your major. For a relatively high salary, choosing a major in the social sciences may not be ideal since the professions tend to be low-paying. STEM majors tend to lead to well-paying jobs. The good news is that there are numerous platforms where students can get data on salary scales of most fields.
How to Choose a Major: Simple Tips and Steps
Choosing a college major can be frustrating and confusing. Your parents will have their opinions on what is ideal, while you will also have interests to pursue. Information on the best majors online can be both helpful and baffling. It is crucial to remember that the occupation you choose now is likely to stick with you for a large part of your career. Here are some steps to take as you pick your preferred field.
- Identify your passions;
- Research preferred colleges to see what they offer;
- Review options and search for accurate information online;
- Use your network to learn more about the fields that interest you;
- Consider future factors like employability, remuneration, and possibility for postgraduate studies;
- Seek and embrace professional career advice;
- Consider pairing your major with a minor.
Choosing a College Major: Important Lessons
This article highlights some crucial points to remember when choosing a college major. Understand that majors can be changed as students’ experiences and knowledge expand. So, do not panic when making this critical decision. Take your time to research widely. Remember that the decision can be reversed if your opinions change. Most importantly, use the time in college to enjoy yourself.