Admit This

College Majors: No Minor Decision

Declaring a major is one of the most pivotal decisions students make during their college career. Yet, many make frivolous choices because they don’t put enough thought or effort into assessing which college major is a good fit. You may recall my ranting about my freshman year as a business major. Yikes.

Other students (like I was) panic because they are afraid that they won’t enjoy the coursework associated with the major or the career that it eventually leads to. It's not an easy selection process.


There's a new book on this topic that you might find helpful. Panicked Student’s Guide to Choosing a College Major, Dr. Laurence Shatkin gives students the information they need to research their options, make practical choices, and overcome the anxiety associated with the college major decision. Shatkin explains that before choosing a college major, students should first consider the following factors:

- Time and expense required. “Some majors take longer than others to bear fruit as a career,” says Shatkin. “Before you commit to a career goal, you have to be sure you have the determination and ability to go through the long preparatory process. College tuition keeps getting more and more expensive. Also, you need to be confident that you will enjoy the major itself, not just the rewards at the end of the road.”

- Competition. According to Shatkin, “Rewarding careers often attract large numbers of job seekers. The competition can begin in college or, for some careers, even earlier. As part of the decision about a major and a career, you need to get a realistic sense of your chances of entering and succeeding in school.”

- Personality type. “The most widely used personality theory about majors and careers was developed by John L. Holland. The theory rests on the principle that people tend to be happier and more successful in jobs where they feel comfortable with the work tasks and problems, the physical environment, and the kinds of people who are co-workers,” explains Shatkin. “Holland identified six personality types that describe basic aspects of work situations: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional.”

- Skills. “Part of a good career decision, which will shape your decision about your major, is matching your skills with a career’s demands for skills. Your past experiences in school and work can help you understand which skills you are good at and enjoy using,” says Shatkin.

- Favorite high school courses. According to Shatkin, “A good way to predict how well people will like college courses is to ask them how much they liked similar high school courses. In addition, most people earn their highest grades in college courses that are similar to the high school courses in which they did well. Your high school experiences can help you predict your satisfaction and success in various careers.

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For more insights from high school students, current college students, and even parents (!), see these threads on the College Confidential discussion forum.

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Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.