5 Tips for Choosing a College Major

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It starts as soon as people know you intend to go to college — everyone wants to know what your major is or what you want to do for a career. This can lead to a lot of stress if you just aren’t sure. Try these tips to help figure out your answer.

1. Don’t panic.
Many young adults — and a large proportion of older adults — haven’t figured out what they want to do, so you’re not alone.

For many career paths, you can wait a couple of semesters to declare a major without extending your college career (and potential debt). In fact, many colleges advise those who aren’t absolutely sure of their major to spend some time exploring before committing to one.

2. Find out where your interests lie.
Think about what you most like to do. What classes did you excel in? What extracurriculars, activities and events do you keep going back to? Have you ever been so absorbed in something that you didn’t realize how much time had passed?

Questions like this can help you determine how you like to spend time. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, ask your friends and family what they notice about you.

Assessments can also help you determine your interests and potential careers, and the majors tied to them. Your school counselor or academic adviser can help you find assessments, and several are available for free online.

3. Consider all the aspects of a potential career.

Salary can be an important factor when you think about careers and the majors that will allow you to obtain a job in that field. But, you may have other considerations.

Ask yourself whether you want a job that will allow you to help others or improve the world in some way; whether you like high-stress environments that will require you to make quick decisions or meet deadlines; whether you prefer to work alone, in small groups, or with a large variety of people; if working in cubicle or driving around the state is more appealing; and other similar questions.

Also consider the lifestyle you would like to have. Do you want a job that will allow you flexibility to volunteer or spend more time with a family? Do you prefer urban or rural environments? Would you consider a move across the country — or the world?

4. Explore your choices.
Once you have an idea of the types of majors you might like, use a tool like ROCI Reality Check to help you explore the jobs actually achieved by graduates of that major, as well as the job descriptions, projected need for workers in that field and expected salaries.

Think about job-shadowing or finding part-time jobs that are closely related to the type of work you want to do to see if the reality is close to your expectations. Many professionals are happy to talk to interested students about the type of work they do every day.

Some colleges offer exploratory courses or programs to help you take a few classes from several majors and pinpoint where your interests lie. Talk to your academic adviser about these possibilities.

5. Keep an open mind.
You may find that you don’t like certain aspects of the career you always wanted. If that happens, think about related careers that don’t involve the things you’d rather avoid. Take a look at the actual jobs held by graduates of your selected major in the ROCI Tool to get ideas for related careers.

If you do declare a major and then decide it’s not for you, it’s usually not hard to change your major. Depending on when this occurs and how different your new major is from your last one, you may find you need to spend more time in school to complete all the required courses.

Remember that your major can be instrumental in helping you obtain your first job out of college. After that, you may find that skills you picked up in your first position are more useful in landing your second. Also, many people switch careers one or more times before they retire. Your college major does not necessarily dictate all your career choices for the rest of your life.

By: Iowa Student Loan