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Choosing A Major

You're probably heard people talk about their college major. But what is it and how do you pick one?

A major is a course of study that is focused on a particular academic subject (i.e. biology, English, history, math, etc.). Most colleges and universities require students to choose and complete a major in order to graduate. Typically, this requires taking particular courses. Depending on the college, completing a major can also involve a substantial research project or thesis.

For some people, choosing a major is easy. They know what they want to do for a living, and the path to get to that end is very straightforward. For others, the process of choosing a major is less clear-cut. Especially if you have lots of interests, it may be difficult to decide what subject to focus on.

Keep in mind, though, that what you major in in college doesn't have to determine your longer-term career path. There are lots of history majors who have become doctors, in the same way that there are lots of science students who have becoming writers and artists later in life.

What matters most is that you choose a major that excites you. No matter which one you pick, you will learn valuable skills that will help prepare you for challenges you face later on in life.

If you're having problems deciding on a major, try asking yourself these questions:

What do I love?

Knowing what really engages you is critically important when picking a major. Pick something that incorporates what you love to do.

What am I good at?

Major in something that interests you or enhances skills that you may have already developed.

What do I want to do?

Have you always wanted to be a doctor? A teacher? A lawyer? Don't limit yourself to only doing what is traditional for those fields. If you want to be a doctor but have a love of Spanish literature, make sure you take your pre-med requirements...and look into majoring in Spanish. Pursuing a long-term professional goal while exploring your interests. Your major and your preparation for a professional field don't always have to be the exact same thing.

What skills do I want to learn?

Pick a major that is can be fun and interesting but also provides you with the practical training you may need later. You may want to be a doctor with your own practice. This would require you to not only take classes to prepare you to be a doctor but also some take classes that will teach you how to be an entrepreneur and run your office.

When should I pick a college major?

Although you do not have to choose a major until around your sophomore year of college, having an idea of what you want to major in before you to apply to any school allows you to compare the programs offered by different universities. Also, knowing what you want to major before college can help with finding scholarships to pay for your education.

Need more information about your major? Take advantage of:

  • Colleges' course catalogs. Read descriptions of different majors and the courses required to pursue them.
  • Professors who teach the courses you're interested in. They can tell you more about these classes and help you determine whether the classes are indeed a good fit for you.
  • Upperclassmen. They have chosen and are actively pursuing a major and can tell you about their experiences.
  • College alumni. Most schools have groups of alumni who are happy to talk with current and prospective students about majors and careers.
  • Colleges' career centers. These center offer a wide range of resources on choosing a major and a career, as well as internship and job placement information. 

For more information on college majors, visit these websites:

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