All college students hope to major in subjects they love, but unfortunately, choosing a major is rarely that simple. Majors can shape everything, from job prospects to college workloads to future salaries, not to mention ways of thinking and even ways of life.
It’s no surprise, then, that so many college students feel pressure to find the “Perfect Major” for their interests, skills, and plans for the future — and it’s also no surprise that with so many factors to take into consideration, finding that “Perfect Major” can be so difficult. Here are eight questions to help guide your decision:
1) Do you like the subject enough to drown yourself in it? Keep in mind that choosing a major — say, psychology — means spending years taking classes on psychology, writing reports on psychology, completing assignments on psychology, reading textbooks and articles about psychology, attending lectures on psychology, taking tests on psychology… you get the picture. Signing up for a major you aren’t interested in could mean setting yourself up for years of boredom and burnout.
2) Do you like the classes you’ll have to complete for your major? Read descriptions and reviews for the classes required in your major. Do you think you’d like to take those classes? Did past students in those classes enjoy their experiences? Doing a bit of research before you make your decision could help you avoid a semester of pain in the wrong classes.
3) How difficult are those classes? Ask former students or read reviews to gauge how many hours of work you’ll need to put into your classes each week. If you anticipate filling up your schedule with extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, internships or other commitments during the school year (as most students do), consider your priorities carefully before signing up for a work-intensive major.
4) Will your major allow you to fulfill its requirements using courses taken outside of your university? If you plan to study abroad, can you transfer classes from the program at your destination university back to your major at your home university? If you’re a transfer student, or you plan to graduate early, can you apply credits completed at other universities to your major requirements?
5) How many classes will you need to take each semester? Create a tentative four-year class plan, and list out the courses you’ll need to take each semester in order to finish your major. Do you have enough space left to take classes outside your major? If your major includes any highly demanding classes: if you end up needing to retake a class to improve your grade, will you have the extra space in your schedule to do so? Could you free up a semester to spend abroad?
6) How long will it take you to complete your major? If graduating in fewer than four years is important to you for financial or other reasons, it may serve you well to choose a major that doesn’t require a high number of classes, a full final year of thesis supervision, etc.
7) Will your major increase your access to jobs you’d like to have after you graduate? Ask your university’s career counselors about the jobs that past graduates of your intended major went on to take. Could you see yourself working those jobs in the future? Do you think you’d enjoy your work?
8) Will your major increase your access to jobs that pay well? What are the average starting salaries of people who complete your major? What are the average starting salaries of people who complete your major at your particular university? Your university’s career counselors can offer you useful information on this front, too.
By asking yourself these eight questions, you’ll be able to easily evaluate which major is right for you and your future.
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Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.