Some students start their college careers knowing exactly what they want to be when they grow up, making choosing a major an easy decision. But this is not the case for everyone.
Plenty of students don’t know what they want to major in before starting college, and many are still figuring things out throughout their first year (or more). And that’s perfectly okay!
If you find yourself in the “undecided” camp, you’re not alone. Here are some things you can do before or during your first semester to help you make a more informed decision about your major.
1. Attend info sessions and campus fairs
Keep an eye out for in-person or virtual info sessions or campus fairs being offered over the summer or at the start of the school year. They can give you some high-level information about what different majors are all about.
If there are a few different majors you’re considering, see if each offers an info session for prospective students. They will help you get a better understanding of the topics that will be studied in that program and what kind of jobs graduates pursue. Be sure to prepare some questions before you go (see below) and take plenty of notes! Jotting down important details will come in handy later as you’re reviewing your options.
2. Visit the campus career center
Most colleges and universities have some kind of career center or department, and most are staffed with knowledgeable career counselors. Their job is to be a resource for students and help you better understand the career paths available with different majors. Many can also help you find internship opportunities or line up a job as you get closer to graduation.
Your career center staff can provide a wealth of information about the options available to you, and can help you align your talents and passions with a major that suits you best.
3. Speak with faculty advisors in each major
Each department on campus should have at least one faculty advisor who can tell you about everything their program has to offer. These advisors can be an invaluable resource, as they can tell you about all the required courses (and who teaches them), what specializations are available within the major, and what the culture is like. They may even be able to put you in touch with other faculty members or upperclassmen in the program to speak with.
Remember, these faculty members are busy people, so find out how to get an appointment with them and be respectful of their time. (They may end up being your professor one day!)
4. Talk with current students in the major
Get connected with other students in the majors you’re interested in learning more about and ask if they could spare some time for you to pick their brains. (Students are busy too, so again, be respectful and appreciative of their time.)
Ask them things like how they decided on that major, what their experience has been like in the program, and what type of career they’re interested in pursuing. Unlike faculty members, other students will be able to give you a first-hand perspective on what it’s actually like to take the classes and what the workload is like in that program. They can even give you insider tips, like the best professors to take and which classes fill up fastest.
5. Take a few intro courses
If you’ve narrowed your major of choice down to a couple of options, consider taking an introductory class in each of those programs. When you speak with a faculty advisor or student in the program, ask them for recommendations on a good class to try.
Taking a class or two in majors you’re interested in can give you a real feel for what the program will be like, and if you’ll find it interesting. If you’re going to study something for four years (or more) you want to make sure it’s something you’ll love. And the good news is, you’ll already have a class done toward your degree for whichever major you choose.
Have your list of questions ready
ACT.org has a great list of questions you can consider while researching your options. Have these and any other important questions in mind as you talk to people or attend info sessions:
- Does the major match my interests?
- Does this major prepare me for the career I want to have?
- What courses will I take for the major?
- What will I learn?
- What degree types are available to me?
- What are the typical jobs available with my planned level of education?
- What specialties are within the major?
- What high school courses can help me prepare for the major?
- What type(s) of schools offer the major?
- What are some related majors?
The most important thing to remember when choosing a major is to be flexible. During your research, you may find one major that ticks all your boxes, or, you may change your mind and shift to something else entirely. Education is a journey.