How to Choose Your College Major

woman holding college textbooks
students enjoying their time in the green space

The Difficulty of Choosing a College Major

Some students begin their college careers knowing precisely what they want to do with their lives. These individuals know how far they want to take their education, what job they want, and even what company they dream of applying to. Indeed, it can be intimidating if you’re unsure what path you want to follow. However, you can rest easy knowing that you’re not alone. An estimated 80% of college students change their college major at least once. Most will change it three times over the four or five years they’re enrolled.

Notably, it isn’t easy to think about what you want to do for the rest of your life when you’re fresh out of high school. Many haven’t had a job yet, but have to think about what field they want to spend decades in. Truly, it’s not surprising that such a high number of students change things up.

Everyone’s path will look different. Some know the general field but not the specialty. Others know the type of job they want but not the specific field. And the others still have no idea where they’re heading. If you’re worried about wasting time and money on the wrong major, you can follow a few steps to find the best one. Above all, you must find a major that interests you and will allow you to find a job in which you’ll thrive.

Top 10 Tips to Figure Out Your College Major

College is a time for growth, self-discovery, and a big step towards adulthood and independence. You’ll be responsible for yourself, your success, and your choices during this time. While it can be a great time to have fun and make friends, this responsibility is new for many and can be stressful. Thus, it’s important to know when something isn’t working and change it.

Some may feel that changing your college major means you didn’t make it or failed in that field. That simply isn’t true. Indeed, knowing when a path isn’t for you is a sign of growth and understanding. The things you dream of when you were fifteen often aren’t going to be the things you want as an adult.

So, how can you figure out the best college major for you? Whether you’re looking to enroll, are two years in, or are considering returning to school, our ten tips can help you decide.

school study space

1. Choose a School That Fits You

Indeed, the best first step is to make sure you enroll in a school that fits you and your needs. The ideal environment could include attendance options (in-person or remote), the extent of research and laboratory access, a variety of classes and majors, and so on. Additionally, the culture of the college matters as you’ll be more successful if you feel comfortable and welcome on campus.

When choosing your college major, you should always develop a backup plan for your studies. As we mentioned, a whopping 80% of students change courses while enrolled. If you attend a university where only one specific major interests you, you may need to transfer colleges later. While there is nothing wrong with transferring, some of your credits unfortunately will not come with you. You can save time and money if you stay at the same school.

2. Consider Your Interests

Consider your interests if you don’t know where to start with picking your college major. You probably came across a field or two that sounded interesting while in high school. Maybe sports management or video game development caught your eye. Alternatively, you might find yourself passionate about nature conservation or animal welfare.

While you likely shouldn’t turn your hobbies into a career, you should follow your passion into a job field. Indeed, work is work, but it doesn’t need to be miserable. If you love animals, you can try zoology, veterinary work, or the non-profit sphere. Alternatively, you can find a job creating stuffed animals or dog toys. The things that interest you can help you identify paths that allow you to use your talents and feel like you’re helping in the field.

Once you have identified your different interests, start researching related majors and jobs. Notably, you don’t always need a college major that directly translates to your ideal career. Consider non-profit work. Graduates with communications, business, writing, English, and more degrees can easily find a spot at a non-profit in various positions.

The skills you obtain at college can open doors in unexpected fields. Indeed, companies love people that know to communicate professionally, find new clients and customers, and learn new tasks quickly.

3. Try New Things

Before or while enrolled, try to explore your options. Utilize internship and shadowing opportunities to learn about a job. Truly, you can find out a lot more about a position in the field than in the classroom or online. You may find the position you were striving for wasn’t all it was cut out to be. Certainly, it’s best to find out before you invest five years into studying it. Try as many new things as you can, as they can point you in the direction of your dream career.

Additionally, many college students must take a few electives to qualify for graduation. Don’t be afraid to use these credits to explore your options. Maybe you’ve been eying that film class or want to know more about creative writing. Never pass up an opportunity to learn more about yourself and new topics.

Notably, you will find that some courses have prerequisites or require that you have declared a related major to enroll. These rules are often put in place if there is limited seating. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re locked out of the class. Try contacting your advisor and the professor or department head. If the seats don’t fill up before enrollment ends, you may still be able to get in. You may have to do extra paperwork because of your college major, but it’s worth it to explore your options.

college supplies

4. Get Your Required Classes Out of the Way

Often, universities require their students to take a few general education courses. If you need more time to decide on your college major, consider focusing on those basic classes like math, composition, and physical education. Getting these requirements out of the way gives you a few additional benefits.

First and foremost, you have more leeway to figure out your college major. Second, general education credits are the most likely to transfer over if you need to move schools. Finally, you’ll be better prepared for some of your later core classes. Essay writing, for example, is often a struggle for new students. The standards for the average high school paper versus one you’ll write in college contrast starkly. Many students spend their first English course unlearning everything their high school teachers taught them.

The same can be said for STEM students who haven’t taken a math course for a while. You may be rusty with formulas and mental math. These general education classes can serve as a refresher as you get back in the swing of things.

Basically, you’ll get to explore the basics, build skills, and gain time to figure out your major. You may even discover that you find your passion within a general education course.

5. Consider Enrolling in Community College

If you’re looking to save money on a bachelor’s degree, you can enroll in community college for your first two years. These institutions often offer lower tuition and have easier acceptance rates. Notably, you may have heard people say community college isn’t like a “real university” or that the classes they offer aren’t worth it. But this talk is anything but true. Thankfully, much of the stigma has cleared up over time, but it can discourage people from enrolling.

Truthfully, community college is extremely valuable in several ways. Students who enroll in these schools often do so to get those general education courses out of the way for cheaper. They can also explore those alternative classes without racking up tons of student debt. As an added benefit, you get to graduate with your associate’s instead of worrying about transferring credits to another school. When you confer your degree, those credits are yours.

Furthermore, students can be eligible for additional scholarships and grants as returning schools or due to their grades in community college. Make sure you research the many benefits of community college while considering your options.

6. Explore Unique College Majors

Many smaller colleges often stick to the basics. They offer majors like communications, business, and information technology. Truly, these studies are common for a reason: they have great market value. Reputable and accredited universities want you to succeed as they want to know they’re offering a valuable education and want to showcase their success stories. Thus, they offer majors that allow their students to find jobs and success in their lives.

However, these cookie-cutter college majors aren’t the right fit for everyone. Some universities offer unique study options like puppetry, bicycle design, and citrus science. You won’t know what choice is best for you if you don’t know what’s out there.

art college major

7. Know the Facts

One very important step to choosing your ideal college major is learning what waits for you after college. It is no secret that some jobs pay better than others. Further, some industries rarely see new openings or opportunities. And some positions become obsolete with new technologies. Indeed, you may see an influencer talking about how great a career or school is, but that major may not exist within a few years.

On the other hand, some majors get a bad reputation for being a waste of time or money. But this misinformation often comes from pop culture references or just a general misunderstanding of the study itself. Notably, people will promote the paths they enjoy and find valuable. For some, this is art. For others, it’s science. You can make a solid salary and find ample job opportunities in both sectors if you know what you’re doing. Consider business and communications majors.

Students who study in these fields are sometimes the butt of the joke on social media. Yet, business is often among the top ten most lucrative and sought-after majors. Similarly, communications majors can earn well over $100,000 annually in sales and executive-level positions.

8. Take Career Assessments & Quizzes

For those still at a complete loss on what to research, you should try college-level online assessments and quizzes. While quality varies, these tests compile your answers and compare them to data related to various fields and positions. Often, schools provide career assessments on their websites to help possible students see what college major matches their answers.

Of course, the scope of these tests is limited. They can’t compare your responses to every job or field that exists. We recommend taking assessments from multiple sites and colleges and comparing the results. You may find your skills and interests match those of a pharmacy technician, veterinarian, or entrepreneur. Perhaps everything points to a career in STEM. If nothing else, these quizzes give you a starting point on your journey.

9. Utilize Career Services

Similarly, your high school or college may have an advisor specializing in career services. These professionals can provide the same suggestions or advice as the assessments but with more personalized and detailed results. Indeed, you can schedule meetings and discover your options and prospects.

Some universities will have you meet with career services as an assignment for your college orientation class. If you have an idea about what you want to do with your college major, they can help you find internships, networking opportunities, and jobs that may interest you. Alternatively, for those who aren’t quite sure, they can talk you through your interests and skills and help you find your path.

Truly, the career services department is invaluable. Some students wait until their final semester to reach out, but you should utilize them right away.

college library

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Things Up

Many students still have second thoughts after declaring their major. It doesn’t matter if they decided on their dream job when they were twelve or after months of planning and research. Notably, it can just be a matter of cold feet or fear. You pictured something in your head for years, and then you flunk your first big exam. Other times, dreams don’t match reality. And that’s okay.

As we said, college is a great time for experimenting, especially early into your studies. Don’t give up if you just don’t feel the magic you expected right away. College is a big change from high school. But, also, don’t push yourself down a path you won’t enjoy. Take those electives, try new things, and try to remember to have fun.

If you discover you would excel better in marketing than in microbiology, follow the path that would make you happiest. Your job doesn’t need to be your passion. But you shouldn’t dread getting ready in the morning. The same logic should apply to your studies. If you hate everything about your work, something is wrong.

Never be afraid to experiment until you find the ideal college major. You may find new interests that will benefit you for years to come.

Final Thoughts

Lakewood University is an accredited online school that offers a variety of degree and certificate programs. We have rolling enrollments and asynchronous courses. In other words, you don’t have to worry about missing a lecture or running late to class. If you plan on enrolling in college while working, Lakewood University offers the flexibility you need to earn your degree.

Don’t hesitate – reach out to our admissions department today to learn more!