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4 Factors to Consider When Choosing A Major

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It might feel like there's an unprecedented amount of pressure when choosing what to study during college. For months — if not years — your efforts have gone toward getting into college, with not as much time spent considering what you want to study once you're there. While part of determining your dream school certainly comes down to the strength of certain programs, you won't be faced with the task of actually declaring your major until you've been on campus for a year or two, depending on the school. This can be a daunting decision, so here are four things to consider when the time comes to declare a major.


1. Prep for Your Career

The first may be the most obvious: Study what will prepare you for your post-college career. If you already know that you want to work in, say, economics or nursing or publishing, choose a major that will give you the skills needed for one of those paths. If you know you'll need an additional degree (i.e., from graduate, business, or medical school), choose a major that prepares you for that. Working toward an ultimate goal will help guide you through your college years and any course-selecting decisions you may face.

2. Explore Your Interests

Of course, choosing a major based on your desired post-college career comes with one small caveat: You must have already decided on what that career will be. And if you're struggling to choose a major, there's a good chance you'll also be struggling to decide on a career path. Many first-year (and even second-year) college students don't have that decided yet either, so don't be hard on yourself if that's the case! Instead, take the time to explore a few courses that interest you. Taking a class or two in a discipline that catches your eye can be a great way to gauge whether your interest is something that can carry through for the long haul. Another option is to talk to a student or two who's currently enrolled in that major to hear what they like or don't like.

3. Go With What You Love

Whether it's the result of exploring your interests before deciding a major or the reason you've been drawn to a major all along, plenty of students declare a major just because they love the subjects it includes. In order to be fully engaged in the classroom, you have to enjoy what you're studying. And that full classroom engagement is what leads to a fulfilling experience — both within the classroom and in college overall.

4. Consider the Earning Potential

It's certainly important to follow a path you love, but it's also crucial to consider your financial situation after graduation. College is a big investment, and considering the earning potential of a future career can be a huge factor when declaring a major. Be warned, though: I urge you not to choose a major simply based upon its earning potential — a hefty paycheck may not be worth showing up to a job you dislike every day.


Still stressed? Here's one last tidbit to ease your mind: You can almost always change your major later. College is your chance to experience new subjects and areas of interest until you find the one that's just right for you, so don't feel like you have to choose one and then be bound to it like glue. If you do decide to switch, though, note that every major will have required coursework. So, if a discipline feels off to you, don't hesitate in figuring out why and make the switch if necessary.