How to Decide on a Major

How to Decide on a Major was originally published on Vault.

As a college student, you’ll be making the first big decisions of your life. One such decision is choosing a major that is right for you. You’ll have to take many things into consideration, such as your interests and skills, and your plans for the future. All of this can seem overwhelming, so we’ve gone ahead and put together some nice strategies that you can use to help you make the right decision, so without further ado, let’s begin.

Find Your Passion

This is easier said than done, as it can sometimes take years of trial and error to determine what makes us feel happy and fulfilled. For some, realizing a dream can be difficult as there will always be naysayers lurking about; these characters will say things like “that career is really tough to get into” or “that’s unrealistic.” Your best bet is to ignore the naysayers, and decide for yourself what’s realistic or worth doing.

The best way to discover what makes you happy is simply by exploring. A lot. Now, when I say exploring I mean the kind that searches the inner feelings of oneself, and not the kind that leads you to mysterious and dangerous places such as the Bermuda Triangle or Area 51. Let’s say for example you have a strong interest in cars, or any type of vehicle or machine. You spend hours learning about how they work; down to the name of each moving part and the functions they perform, the tolerances of various assemblies, and how peak performance is achieved. This is a good indicator that you might enjoy engineering.

Internships are a great way to gain real insight into any number of career paths. If that’s not an option for you, a part-time job or even a local club of some sort can help you identify what you’re passionate about. It’s also worth considering that you might be learning all about what you don’t want, and what won’t make you feel happy and fulfilled. Think of it as a process of elimination as you start this journey—as you make your way through, you will separate the wheat from the chaff, as they say.

Identify Your Strengths

Everyone has their own unique set of innate talents and skills. Of course, anyone can learn how to do just about anything with the proper guidance and practice, but people often have a certain natural proclivity towards a particular skill, whether it’s with the arts, mathematics, or language, among many other things.

Learning to identify your strengths can help you decide on a major. A good way to identify your strengths is to look to your peers. If you’re consistently outperforming those around you in a specific area, it usually means you’ve got a natural ability. It’s important to remember that even if you possess a certain natural ability, it still needs to be nurtured. Try to think of any natural abilities you might have as a sort of “head start” from the rest.

Next, figure out how you can use your talents to help you choose an appropriate major. Maybe you’ve always been comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people and you’re particularly well-spoken. In this case, you might be a great candidate for a communications major. Be creative and keep an open mind, as your talents and skills can be applied to multiple career paths. For example, the aforementioned communication skills are also crucial for someone who wants to become a lawyer.

Get Your Priorities Straight

What are you looking for in a career? Is it more important for you to make a difference doing what you love? Or are you in it for the glory, the mansion, and eventually, the yacht? When choosing a major, try to imagine your career and your future, as your major can have a strong impact on your path moving forward.

Another thing to consider is whether your interest in a particular field outweighs your skill. If you’re like yours truly and you’ve always wanted to be an astronaut but you just couldn’t make the grade, then you can say for sure that your interest outweighs your skill. It’s important to strike a fair balance between your passion and your level of ability when it comes to selecting a viable career. Of course, you can also put in the time to develop the necessary skills you need for just about any career you want. Always keep these things in mind when you’re deciding on your major.

It’s also worth mentioning that your academic advisor can help you determine which major you should go for, and can even assist you in the event you want to change majors. Remember, nothing is set in stone—if you think you’ve made the wrong choice, you’re never stuck and you can always change your mind. If you’d like more detailed information on how your academic advisor can help you, check out our previous blog here.