NOTE: Scroll to the bottom of the page for tips on selecting a major and for additional resources.
Television can be a huge factor on how students make their decisions.
For example, while watching old episodes of “Law and Order,” you might be inspired to major in Criminal Justice. Then a few weeks later while watching “Extreme Home Makeover,” you might decide to use your creativity and major in Interior Design or Architecture. And, just when you thought you had planned out your entire life, you come across “The Apprentice” and realize that Business (marketing, management, or entrepreneurship!) may just be right up your alley!
One of the most important decisions that you will make in college is to select a major. Many students find this to be a difficult process and are often unsure of the path that they want to take. Some students pick out their majors based on parental influences (My mom wants me to major in Nursing!) or some students are confused by the many options that are out there (I can’t pick 5 different majors to study?). But, as tough as this decision may seem, finding a major that you enjoy is exciting and will motivate you to do your best.
So, what exactly is a college major? Your major is the area of study that you will specialize in. The courses that you take for your major will be separate from the general education pattern that you will complete for your AA/AS degree or transfer. Additionally, the courses that you take for your major will have a general commonality to the subject matter that you are studying. For example, if your major is Psychology, your list of required coursework may include General Principles, Social Psychology, Biological Psychology, and Research Methods in Psychology. However, if your major is Chemistry, your list of required coursework may include General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Calculus, and Physics.
Deciding on your major doesn’t have to be a disastrous process. If you are undecided on a major, here are 10 important questions to ask yourself:
1. What are your biggest strengths? For example, do you like to take things apart, examine the pieces that you have separated, and then put them back together? Or perhaps you are a good listener or problem solver. Are you organized and detail-oriented or are you creative and adventurous? There are many majors where your strengths will be a natural fit.
2. What are your interests? Do you have a strong interest in fashion and design? Or perhaps you love to study architecture and history. Make a list of the subjects that you are drawn to the most and think about why you enjoy them so much.
3. Do you have a hobby or special talent that can relate to a college major? Some people have great hobbies – like photography and music – that could evolve into a college major. Sometimes identifying what you love to do will help you to make a decision on your major.
4. What kind of college classes do you enjoy? Do you thrive more in your Psychology and Sociology classes or more in Physics and Computer Programming? Think about the classes that you have taken in the past (or are currently taking) and ask yourself why those courses were your favorite ones.
5. Have you taken any courses related to your major of interest? For example, if your major is Early Childhood Education, have you completed any ECE courses – such as Child Development – to get an understanding and grasp of this major? Sometimes students have selected their majors even before starting college, but taking actual courses within the major will help to solidify those decisions.
6. Have you made a decision for yourself or did you take the path of your parents’ or friends’ recommendations? Sometimes it is easier to have other people make decisions for us. However, this is your future so you will want to make this decision for yourself…and feel good about that decision! You don’t want to complete an entire program or degree and then realize that this is not what you want to do at all.
7. What other factors influenced your selection of major? Was it the lure of money, fame, and fortune that you chose to major in broadcast journalism or did you choose that field because you love researching and reporting on interesting news topics? Find a major that will allow you to do what you love…for the right reasons!
8. Does your major support or relate to your future career goals? Some careers require a specific major. For example, if your goal is to become a Registered Nurse, then your major will be Nursing…not Mathematics, not History, not Computer Science! As you consider different majors, think about the many career opportunities that are related to those majors. For example, if you decide to major in Business, some career opportunities may be to go into finance, marketing, management, and human resources.
9. Are you willing to go as far you need to for your major and career? Some majors and careers require additional training or education beyond an AA/AS degree. For example, to become a pharmacist, you will need to complete a professional degree that is another 4 years beyond a BA/BS degree. There are also additional requirements such as completing a residency or fellowship with a licensed Pharmacist and then passing a state examination. If you are willing to do what it takes for your career, then go for it!
10. Have you researched the many options and choices within your major? Do you aspire to be an engineer? Did you know that within the engineering field, you can study Civil Engineering, Aeronautical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering? It is important to research your major so that you are aware of the different options that you have.
So, as you think about these questions, give yourself the opportunity to reflect on what is important to you, what would make you feel the most happiest and fulfilled within your major, and what you genuinely enjoy the most!
Below are additional resources to explore different majors and careers. There are lots of great assessment tests to take and lots of great information! (Thank you to the Career Center for the resources!)
Eureka Program: www.eureka.org
CA Career Zone: www.cacareerzone.org
CA Career Cafe: www.cacareercafe.com
My Plan: www.myplan.com