Foreword by Rick Howard: This article is written by Angie He, and is based on her experience as a university student. I would like to compliment Angie on a very well written, and important article. I also would like to add something here, which I think should be mentioned. For most people, having a higher education is a critical part of achieving many of your life dreams. It is not the only way to do so, but can certainly be a good way to be successful in turning your dreams into reality.
An important point to consider, life is a series of steps we all take: education (in whatever form that is i.e. university, trade school, military etc.), career and then our post career activities. Your decision in choosing your major is one of the most critical decisions you will make in your life, as it can have far reaching consequences. For some people, they may choose to take a break after secondary school, to see the “real world”, get a better idea of what they want to focus on, then go back to school. For others, this may not be an option. My point here, is that these decisions should never be taken lightly. At the same time, if you have chosen your Major, and later in life your goals have changed, it’s okay, you will find a new way to achieve those new goals and as Angie mentions, there is some flexibility with that as well. Most of us do not truly know what we want when we are 18, 19 or 20 years old. That is part of life, live and learn. Now I will let you read Angie’s very well written article
Choosing a major is a significant step in college and is a tough call. One’s career, to some extent, depends largely on the major. Of course, there are people whose work has little or nothing to do with the majors they’ve earned a degree in, however, for most people, selecting their major is the starting point of a career path.
Universities and colleges provide hundreds of thousands of majors and minors, among which students may have a difficult time deciding which one to choose. Many majors have similar names but could mean different fields of studies; many are specific while others are vague; many have names that people cannot even pronounce. Thus, how can one decide which major is ‘right’ for them? Here are some tips may be helpful:
1. Interest is an important indicator, but not a decisive factor.
Einstein said “the interest is the best teacher.” If you are not interested in something, you certainly do not have the incentive to learn more about it. When you are interested, you will be curious and would like to know more. You will read books, look up information, do research and ask experts without anyone telling you or forcing you to do so. That is the charm of interests.
However, interest is an indicator in terms of choosing a major. It can help you narrow down the range and filter out the choices that may fit you. Besides, interest can last for some time but maybe not long enough for you to get through all the years in college. Thus, you need something stronger, will last longer and encourage you when you want to give up. It could be your dream, a life-long goal or something / someone you want to fight for.
Note that you might feel that ‘I’m not interested in anything.’ If that is the case, do not worry. One way to cultivate interest and become interested in something is to master it. When you are good at a skill, everyone admires you and needs your help because you rank top on it. You may begin to be interested in it because of others’ compliments and affirmation. For example, one is doing well in math at school, and his/her classmates come to him/her for help when they encountered difficulties. Gradually, this person may develop an interest in math even thought at first he/she would not have imagined.
2. Know yourself better.
Exploring your interests is a step in knowing yourself. During games, daily interactions, and other activities, you or people around you may discover your talents or potentials. Your own special talents may lead you to a career where you are able to exploit all your potential to achieve your goals, succeed and make your dream come true. By participating in extra curriculum activities, join contests or simply playing games with friends, you may figure out what you are good at. For example, you may choose music related majors because you sing well, play piano well or have an acute musicality; you may choose computer science as your major because you think programming is a piece of cake to you.
Asking yourself some questions. Trying to picture your future life in your mind. What types of degree you want to earn ultimately? Do you prefer to work alone or in a team? Do you want to work at home, in an office or have many business trips? What kind of people would you like to work with? What your schedule would be like, flexible or routine? How much do you want to be paid? Do you prefer to live in an apartment in a big/small city or a house in suburb and drive to work?
Moreover, another way to know yourself is by doing some tests. One of the most famous personality test is called 9 Types of personality test, also known as Enneagram of Personality. It divides people into nine different types and gives elaborate explanations to each type. The full test has 180 questions and shorten version has 36 questions.
http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/Tests_Battery.asp#FreeShortTests (short one is free, full-length requires purchase but more accurate)
Here is another quiz called ‘What College Majors Will Match Your Personality?’ http://homeworktips.about.com/library/maj/bl_majors_quiz.htm
3. Know the major.
Each college provides students various majors. After you have a list of possible majors you may pursue, you will need to look into universities and colleges that you want to go and do some homework on their reputation first. Then once you’ve decided, go to the website of the school, find the descriptions of the majors that you are interested in and read carefully. Keep in mind that not only will you need to know what the major is about (because it could be different than what you think it is), but also look at the requirements of obtaining the degree, including courses that are required to gain the degree (you might dislike some of them), GPA (grade point average) requirement and other activities.
Furthermore, after you are admitted to the university/college, remember to visit the advisors in your college/department often for advice and tips. They have a lot experiences in guiding students, consulting and help students schedule courses. Talk to them about your concerns, worries and confusion. They will help you as much as they can until your problems are solved, and they will give you suggestions on pursuing your current degree or changing it to something more appropriate.
4. Do not afraid of changing major.
A lot of people assume that once the decision is made, it cannot be changed, or they are afraid of changing to another major. However, it is adjustable. People are changing all the time due to their life experiences, so are their interests. Not to mention that college students who are young and curious, have strong abilities to adapt and accept new changes. Everything is possible and one’s future cannot be determined by or bound to a major. While in college, you may develop new hobbies and find yourself more interested in other majors, you will be more mature and may learn more about yourself and you may set up a plan for your life that has nothing to do with your current major. Therefore, you need to switch to another major.
Some students are not willing to change major mainly because it will cost extra time and money, and it means a waste of time and money that spent on courses taken before. Nevertheless, if you choose a major that you do not like or it does not fit your future plan, it will cost you more to learn new knowledge and skills that your career requires. In addition, by that time, your efficiency of learning may decline because of age and work. Thus, never be afraid of changing your major. There are people who have changed their major three or four times in order to find the most suitable one, and finally they accomplished it and are very successful and happy in their career.
One tip for those who haven’t decided what to major in: choose general courses that fit many of your interested majors in freshman year, and take your time figuring out the one you want to pursue. Later, in sophomore, or even junior year, you may be able to make the decision confidently.