What Should I Major In? 7 Steps to Choosing Your College Major

16/09/202310 minute read
What Should I Major In? 7 Steps to Choosing Your College Major

Whether you're a high school student preparing for college or already a college student seeking to switch majors, this guide is packed with valuable tips and insights to help you make an informed decision. We'll show you how to ask useful questions, research different majors, and consider your long-term career goals. Don’t worry — you’ll land on a major that aligns with your strengths and sets you up for success.

Choosing a college major can feel daunting. The possibilities are endless! Should you “follow your passion”, or go for something practical? Maybe you’re a high school student getting ready for college. Or maybe you’re a college student, but you’re second-guessing the major you choose. In this guide, we'll walk you through the process of choosing the best college major for you.

So put your worries on the shelf for now, and let's dive into choosing a college major — the first step towards crafting your dream life.

Choosing the Right College Major: What’s at Stake?

A college major is more than just a label for your degree. It’s a choice that affects not only the next four years, but also life after graduation. 

Choosing the right college major can lead you down a path to success and happiness. It can open up lucrative careers and personal fulfillment. And it can make your college experience much more enjoyable.

On the other hand, choosing the wrong college major can make you feel unmotivated. It can keep you from achieving your academic and career goals. It can also throw your precious time, money, and effort out the window — especially if you need to switch majors or start over in a new field.

So take the time to explore different majors, and consider all factors before making your final decision.

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Step 1: Assess Your Interests and Strengths

The advice to “follow your passion” might make you roll your eyes, but it has some psychological merit! Results from a longitudinal study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology(1) suggest that when you’re interested and curious about something, you’re more likely to take action towards your goals. That’s why it’s important to consider your interests and strengths when choosing a college major. Some helpful questions to ask are:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What subjects do you excel in?
  • Do you enjoy working with people, computers, or something else?
  • Do you have strong verbal and written communication skills?
  • Do you love designing systems to solve problems?

These questions can help you identify your natural talents and guide you towards majors that align with your interests.

Make a list of your favorite subjects and hobbies. Don’t edit this list as you write it. And don’t think yet about which major these interests could translate to. Just write down what you enjoy doing and what comes naturally to you. If you’re at a loss, try taking a test like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder for specific insight into your strengths.

If you don’t feel “passionate” about anything, it might be worth considering a gap year. You know how your best ideas often come to you while you’re in the shower, not thinking about anything in particular? A gap year can give you space to breathe and explore potential interests without the pressures of college.

Step 2: Explore Majors Related to Your Interests

Once you have a working list of your interests and strengths, start exploring different majors that align with your passions. Don't be afraid to consider majors that may not be obvious choices. By thinking outside the box, you may discover a career path that suits you perfectly.

Your list of interests is a starting point for exploring college majors or fields of study. For example:

  • Are you interested in law, debate, government, human nature and politics? Do you have a knack for reasoning? Then you may consider a law degree or political science major.
  • Or  maybe you have multiple interests. Are you naturally curious about the world? Do you enjoy working with people and learning about other cultures? Then a major in journalism or a liberal arts degree might be just right for you.
  • Do you enjoy working with people and crave variety? Are you interested in helping others and learning about living things? You might explore neuroscience, degrees related to nursing, majors for medical school, dentistry, or even animal care.
  • If you’re ambitious and love coming up with my own ideas, then majors related to business, finance, or economics might be an excellent choice for you.
  • Perhaps you’re interested in science and you’re great at thinking logically. Or you’re drawn to math and mechanical pursuits. Then you might explore a STEM major like math, engineering, or computer science.

If you’re still at a loss, take a look at the 10 best majors you should consider in 2023 for inspiration.

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Step 3: Explore Different Career Paths and Industries

Once you’ve landed on a few contenders based on your interests, consider the career paths available for your chosen college major(s). Now it’s time to research job market trends and make sure your major is likely to lead you to a promising career.

Start by researching the different career paths that align with your interests and strengths. Factors to consider include:

  • Projected job growth
  • Salary potential
  • Required skills for each career path 
  • Required degrees or certifications

You can use job search engines like Indeed or Glassdoor to explore the different job opportunities available in your chosen field. You can often get a sense for what it’s really like to work in a given field from the employee reviews on these sites. 

Attend career fairs, networking events, and informational interviews to learn more about the different career paths and industries available to you. You can also reach out to professionals in your desired field to learn about their experiences. If you don’t know anyone, send a gracious message via LinkedIn suggesting a few short, specific windows to meet (“Wednesday the 26th 12:00-12:15 PM”). Or instead of asking to meet, you can pose a few specific questions about their experience in the field. 

  • Pro Tip: To get the best response, don’t create unnecessary work for your interviewee by asking “What is it like?”. Instead, ask open-ended but specific questions that they’ll enjoy answering, like “What is the best and worst thing about your job?” and “What’s something that surprised you once you got into this field?”

Of course, consider the financial implications of your chosen college major as well. How much does this career path pay? Will it be enough to support your lifestyle and financial goals? If you are taking on student loans, will your expected salary be enough to pay back the debt? 

Step 4: Seek Guidance from Academic Advisors and Professionals

Don’t feel like you have to bear the weight of this decision alone! Academic advisors and guidance counselors can help you navigate decisions like this. They can provide useful information about the different majors available at a college, including the curriculum and resources offered. They can also help guide you towards a college major that aligns with your interests and strengths.

Guidance counselors typically serve hundreds of students at once and may not have the bandwidth to do deep research with you. If you want support from an expert dedicated to your specific situation, book a free call with Crimson. A Crimson specialist can help you hone in on the perfect major for you and create a list of safety, target, and reach schools. They’ll give you a clear roadmap towards a career you love AND leave you feeling confident about the path forward.

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Step 5: Exploring Internships and Experiential Learning Opportunities

To gain practical experience in your desired field, seek out experiential learning opportunities like internships or capstone projects. These opportunities can provide valuable insight into the day-to-day work of a career path and help you develop the skills you need to succeed. They can also affirm your choice of a college major — or, you may discover that you don’t actually like the work involved. Both insights are equally valuable!

Search for internships and experiential learning opportunities in your desired field. Look at the different programs available, their requirements, and their duration.

Pro Tip: Visit Delta Institute to find training and virtual work experience with Fortune 500 companies.

Step 6: Evaluate the Curriculum and resources Offered by Different Colleges

Not all colleges offer the same majors or the same caliber of education. Some schools are known for particular majors. When choosing a college major, do your research to find a college that aligns with your goals and values.

Start by researching different colleges and their majors. Look at the curriculum, resources, and faculty to gain a better understanding of what to expect.

You can also try searching LinkedIn for accomplished professionals in your chosen field and seeing where they went to college. Notice any patterns you find. This may give you a starting point for your research.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to students and alumni to hear about their experiences with the college and the major. Colleges often have a network of students or alumni ready to share their experiences. Besides contacting the school directly, you can also put the word out on social media. Search the hashtags or ask, “Anyone know a current or former student at UPenn?” Also take advantage of college fairs and campus tours to learn more about the schools and what they have to offer.

Step 7: Make the Final Decision and Embrace Your Chosen Major

Alright, you’ve done the heavy lifting. You’ve assessed your interests and strengths and the majors related to them. You’ve explored different career paths and sought guidance from experienced professionals. You may have gone through an internship related to your prospective major. Now it's time to make your final decision!

Embrace your chosen major, and commit to doing your best academically. Remember that it’s not the end of the world if you come to find your major isn’t a good fit for you — you can always switch. But your college major is just the first step towards achieving your professional career goals. With dedication and effort, you can work your way into a fulfilling, lucrative career and make a positive impact on the world.