5 Tips to Help Pick a Major

July 5, 2016

If you don’t know what you want to major in or what you want to do with your life after college, don’t worry. You are in the majority. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, more than 80 percent of American students change their major at least once while in college. Additionally, one of the most popular majors among first year students is “exploratory.”

These five tips will help you head in the right direction when you pick a major.

Two students discussing how to pick a major

1. Take a personality test

From Myers Briggs to Strengths Quest, there are lots of personality tests out there. While they might not be perfect, they can point you in the right direction. Much of the time they will have a careers tab along with your results. That list can give you a good jump start to seeing where you are going to fit in the career world.

2. Shadow someone

Your mom’s friend’s sister works at the local pharmacy, so ask if you can shadow her for a day. You might fall in love with prescribing people drugs to help them heal, or you might realize that sick people freak you out. Either way, the experience will help you come closer to making a decision.

If you can’t shadow someone, set up an informational interview. This is usually about 30-45 minutes, and you get to ask them questions about their life, how they got into their career, what classes they took in college and if they have any advice. These can be pretty casual, like maybe grabbing coffee on a Sunday afternoon. It should feel more like a conversation than anything else.

3. Research the potential opportunities

Google is your friend. Fill in the blanks of searches like these for lists of possible options.

“Careers for people who like to_____.”

“What can ______ majors do?”

If one of them stands out to you, research more about it. You can find out what they do on a day-to-day basis and see if it is something you want to pursue.

4. Design your own major

This is not as intimidating as it sounds. It is sometimes done by having a double major or adding a minor to help specialize your skills.

If you want to be help restructure our environmental laws, you can double major in chemistry and political science. Then you can talk to the government officials and scientists and understand them both.

Maybe you love social media and writing, but you also play the cello. Combine the two majors and you could play for an orchestra or do their PR.

The sky is really the limit here. Colleges and universities want you to pursue your passions, so they will work with you.

5. Go in undecided

If all else fails, going to college exploratory is always an option. This route gives you some time to take general credits out of the way while you dabble in some of your interests.

Most colleges and universities offer exploratory studies courses where students visit other classes, read about several majors and have a mentor they can talk to about their thoughts and potential major. Sometimes these courses are a little more focused, such as exploratory business. You know you want to be in the field, but you don’t know what options there are, so you can explore finance, marketing, international and accounting.

Now go forth and decide!

Katie Goodrich

Meet Katie, the summer 2016 ICI intern: I’m Katie Goodrich, a senior journalism major at an ICI member campus. I believe in grammar, justice and the right to ice cream. I am fluent in English, sarcasm and gibberish. My talents include an incredible memory for ’90s song lyrics, power naps and having just enough bad luck to produce great anecdotes.