Choosing a college major is an important decision. Not only is your major likely to determine many of your future job possibilities, it will also be an important part of your life through college. There are few things more stressful than spending years toiling at something that doesn’t really interest you or strike your passions. Making a smart choice in major is also a big financial decision. College tuition continues to skyrocket, and choosing a major that you eventually switch only wastes valuable time and money. Most college students today can’t afford to experiment with different majors like students did in the past. With the right preparation, you can make the right choice the first time.
Follow Your Interests, Not the Money
Many students look at degrees that they think will get them the highest earning jobs or the best job opportunities. While it is important to choose a major that has decent job prospects, following the money isn’t generally the best option. Students who choose a major in a subject that interests them, identifies with their core values, and strikes up their passionate side are more likely to stay engaged with the material. They will learn more from their classes and have an overall superior college experience. When they do graduate, they will be more prepared to find the best jobs in their field. Employers are quick to identify prospects that don’t really enjoy their work, and they will be less likely to get hired regardless of the degree they have.
When assembling your list of possible degrees, take a balanced approach. Choose degrees that you know will interest you. From that list, look at all of the possible jobs you could get with that degree. This can take some investigation because sometimes job possibilities related to various degrees might not be obvious. The right degree for you will be one that you are interested in and leads to a job with decent employment possibilities and earning potential.
Consider Your Post-Graduate Desires
While plenty of people end their college experience with a two or four-year degree under their belt and never look back, many people also desire access to higher levels of education and the opportunities that come with them. Those seeking to be doctors or lawyers will have no choice to pursue advanced degrees at medical school or law school. These programs may have specific undergraduate requirements that must be completed in order to enroll. In general, medical school has more focused requirements. Most law schools are open to students of varied backgrounds so long as they have strong English skills.
If you have a specific job in mind, investigate the educational requirements for that position. If the job requires a master’s degree or higher, then you could work with an advisor on the best undergraduate major that may help you. Keep in mind that there are usually multiple pathways to the same advanced degree, and it can be helpful to have a varied educational background.
Use Introductory Courses to Your Advantage
Many colleges offer introductory courses to give students a taste of a specific major. These courses often still count toward general degree requirements or electives, so you aren’t wasting money by taking them. The introductory classes allow you to decide if the major fits with you before you have declared an official major.
Some colleges even allow this at the graduate level. Utah State admissions requirements permit graduate students to take up to 12 credits without going through the full applications process. This can be a great way to test out an advanced degree and a graduate school program.
Take Full Advantage of Your Minor
While not a requirement, many students will declare one or two minors in addition to their major. Declaring a minor adds some additional courses to your list, but not as many as declaring a second major. The minor is a good way to choose a complimentary subject that enhances your major. If you were on the fence between two majors, then having one of them your minor still allows you to get good experience and skills in that field. Minors usually will not open up completely new career prospects, but they enhance your profile and make it easier to switch professions later.
It is always helpful to get professional advice when thinking about your major. After you have done some self-reflection and compiled your basic list of ideas, you can work with your college admissions specialist to reach a final decision.