Choosing your college major can be a daunting task. Even if you’re good at a particular subject, you may not necessarily enjoy it, and vice versa. Not to mention that simply being good at something doesn’t mean that there are an abundance of career options. That being said, no major is going to completely eliminate a future career as long as you know how to market yourself when it comes time to job hunt. To get to that point, though, you need to choose a major and finish your degree. Whether you’re a high school student or already in college, here are some tips if you find yourself undecided.
If you’re not sure what you want to major in while you’re in high school:
- Don’t stress. You usually don’t declare a major until the end of your sophomore year in college, so you have plenty of time to decide!
- Consider a liberal arts college. You will receive a more well-rounded education than you would at a school that’s focused on churning out academic papers or preparing doctors or engineers. At a liberal arts college, you’ll be required to take more electives and you can learn about a variety of subjects that way. This experience will help you determine what you are passionate about.
- Explore topics you’re interested in. Finding new interests can include researching a new topic on the internet, checking out books from the library, or looking up local groups related to a specific interest. Getting involved once you find a new interest or hobby (for example, participating in river clean up if you’re interested in environmental science) certainly won’t hurt.
- Take AP or IB classes if possible. If you do well in the classes and on the associated tests, you may get college credit for some introductory-level courses. With more basic courses already done, your schedule will be more open for electives and classes you’re truly interested in.
- Consider how long you want to be in school and how much debt you’re willing to amass. If you’re considering a field that requires a lot of training, like emergency medicine, note that it comes with a lot of debt too. If you’re not willing to have that much debt, consider related fields that require less schooling and study to become a nurse, physician’s assistant, or dental hygienist.
- Take a gap year. Although this is not the right choice for everyone, taking a year off to work, travel, or explore your interests can give you a clearer picture of what you want to do in the future and help you determine your postsecondary path.
- Explore certificate programs. These are typically shorter than associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs, and if you enjoy the subject matter you can continue your studies at a community college or four-year college later on.
If you’re not sure what you want to major in once you’re in college:
- Use your electives to explore new topics. Rather than taking something easy and boring just to get an A, look through the course catalog and choose something that interests you. Most major subjects offer an introductory course for students who are interested in learning more.
- Take lots of electives during your freshman and sophomore years. Not only will this allow you to explore many potential areas of interest, but it also means that once you do choose your major you will be able to focus your schedule around more specialized upper-level classes.
- Volunteer or get a job in a field you’re interested in learning more about. Consider ways that you can get involved in your prospective field that don’t require much education or experience. For example, if you’re interested in working with animals, you may consider a job at a veterinarian’s office or pet store, volunteering at a local animal shelter, or asking the local zoo about shadowing a zookeeper for a day.
- Find out if your school offers an exploratory option. Knowing that students often change their minds, most schools discourage students from choosing a major too soon. But for students who don’t like the idea of being undeclared, many schools are starting to offer options for students to explore before committing to a specific major track. For example, the University of Florida allows freshmen to choose one of three tracks (Science and Engineering, Humanities and Letters, or Social and Behavioral) for their first three semesters of enrollment.
- If you still can’t decide… some schools will allow you to design your own major around your interests. Find out whether your college has a similar option.
If you are undecided, don’t feel like you’re alone! Many students have trouble deciding or change their minds a few times before settling on a major. Don’t feel like you have to make this decision on your own, either. It’s always a good idea to talk with a parent, teacher or professor, or academic advisor about this decision. Take their advice into consideration, but ultimately remember that this is your decision to make. Do what’s best for you, follow your gut, and you’ll be fine!