Student Life

3 Considerations When Considering a College Major

These tips from a fellow college student can help you make your college major decision.

Student Contributor, Charles Schnell

March 12, 2021

3 Considerations When Considering a College Major
Take the pressure off of yourself when choosing your college major.
As a freshman who has yet to declare his major, I feel simultaneously apt and unqualified to write advice on choosing a field to “officially” study in college. What follows are multiple considerations I have been mulling over mentally throughout the school year. I hope I can help you in your thought process. Here are three ways to decide on a college major:
  1. Enjoyment, Satisfaction, and Meaning I shall cover the obvious and most commonly given advice first, although its popularity does not lessen its truthfulness. While one can impose pressure on themselves to pick a major solely based on what will incur the highest possible income, it is essential to remember that if you loathe your coursework and major, you will not excel.
    I have found it more difficult to earn As in classes in which I am not as naturally interested. Of course, this means that your GPA is less likely to be as high as it could be, but it also means that you probably will not retain as much of the knowledge you are spending your time and money to acquire. Logically it follows that you will not excel in careers you only chose because of materialistic, extrinsic rewards; poor enthusiasm leads to poor performance and to poor paychecks. Conversely, I would argue that choosing a major (and subsequently a career—although as I will discuss later, no major ties anyone to a specific career) that you enjoy will lead to greater satisfaction with your life—which is essential for mental health and performance—and larger salaries than in jobs that on average make more, although I would not advocate the latter take priority over the former.
    I have read that the 90th percentile of workers in an area with a lower average income will be happier and more well compensated than the 50th percentile of workers (those who chose it solely for the money) in careers that pay more than the former job on average. Confidence in yourself, born out of your pursuit of a field of study that you enjoy, with which you are satisfied, and which carries some amount of meaning will forever be greater than any faux, temporary, worldly rewards.
  2. Careers, the Job Market, Asking Professionals Life is Lady Justice, weighing both enjoyment and career outlook. While I will maintain that we should incessantly consider satisfaction and enjoyability, I also believe that career outlook is a vital consideration. No college student knows what career they will pursue with the rest of their lifetime but having a career goal or some possible goals in mind can not only help a student decide on a major; it can also be a superb motivator.
    It is ideal to choose a major that can help you when pursuing your desired career path, although it took me a long time to realize that is not as limiting as I imagined it to be. Pursuing a major which trains us to think critically, communicate clearly, analyze narratives, and never miss deadlines—such as history or English—can be marvelous preparation for numerous careers requiring those skills, such as careers in business, medicine, law, or education. STEM majors can be excellent preparation for careers in medicine, law (specifically IP law), or education, in addition to the directly associated scientific and mathematical careers. An important factor to look at is the job market’s expected growth for specific career areas, as reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Another act that I have found beneficial and enjoyable is talking with professionals in the same or similar career fields that you are considering. Those discussions may be your best resource for learning what that career is truly like. Even if you do not know anyone to ask or would like to ask more professionals, I am sure your college’s career center advisors, major advisors, or even some of your professors would be happy to chat with you.
  3. (Obviously Infallible) “What Should I Major In?” Quizzes When all else fails, take a “What Should I Major In?” quiz! (I will award bonus points if you can find a college majors quiz that does not require you to give at least your name and email address to access the results you spent ten minutes answering questions to see.) My favorite quiz is offered from U.S. News, perhaps because it is the most official looking. When I took their quiz, U.S. News admonished me to pursue history as a major, which is one of the numerous fields that I am considering, so I suppose it is a somewhat reliable giver-of-ideas. While this is last on my list because an online quiz cannot know you better than yourself or the labor force better than itself, these quizzes can be fun to take and can offer ideas that may not have otherwise manifested in your mind. Regardless of what or when you choose, please remember: • Your chosen major does not chain you to one specific career field. Think of your degree as opening the doors to multiple opportunities. There are often many ways to “slant” the key skills you have acquired in your major to most aptly fit the career for which you are applying. • With other students declaring in their first year, there can be pressure to declare. Do not succumb. There is no rush to declare your major. I say it is better to declare your major later, not change it afterwards, and enjoy the remainder of your college career as you take advanced classes that count towards your major than it is to declare early, end up full of regret, and change it thereafter. • kLastly, do not let career goals distress you. Mentally declaring a goal does not commit you to any career. You are free to pursue the major and career that you want, and in your freedom, you are bound to lose yourself to numerous ideas and possibilities. Wherever you land, ensure that you can have a life there.

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