It's a familiar question -- every time you discuss your potential college plans, someone is sure to ask what your major will be. Although this question is simple for some students to answer, it can be challenging for others.
Many college applicants know exactly what they want to major in before they attend college, and they use that information to help narrow down their college search. But all students are unique and some are not quite certain what they will ultimately major in before they finish high school. The good news is that if you are one of these students entering college without a major in mind, you are not alone! There is no need to worry if you don’t know your intended college major before you finish high school.
Not All Colleges Require Major Declaration on Applications
Fortunately, many colleges and universities offer a variety of popular and broad majors that will serve you will in the future no matter what you choose. In addition, most colleges have specific general education requirements that you'll need to take before you declare a major anyway. During your freshman and sophomore years of college, most courses, if not all, will meet general education requirements for your degree (think classes like writing, science, social science, a foreign language (if required), etc.).
If you have time during your freshman and sophomore years, you might consider taking a few electives that are 100-level courses to help determine if you'd want to consider those subjects as a major. Most higher education institutions do not require you to declare a major until your junior year. So you might have more time to choose a major than you may have thought.
“Princeton University actually stopped asking students what they want to major in on their application because they found that more than 70 percent of them changed their mind anyway,” said Jill Madenberg, principal at Madenberg College Consulting in Lake Success, N.Y., and co-author of Love the Journey to College. “To me, that's one of the great aspects of college — determining what interests you. College should be a time of self-exploration and discovery. You don't need to have it all figured out while still in high school.”
Don't Rush It
It’s actually better to take your time and choose a major carefully rather than selecting one hastily just because you think you must. Use the first -- and even second -- years of college to think about your future career path and which majors will ultimately prepare you the best for your future.
Another idea that can help you decide on a major could be taking classes at a community college the summer before college, as well as between your freshman and sophomore years of college. Narrowing down which courses you enjoy can be a good way to explore majors if you don’t have the ability to take as many electives as you want during the academic year.
If you are trying to decide between one or more careers, you can go to the career office on campus once you start college and meet with a career counselor to explore options and possibly set up informational interviews with alumni to help sort out the decision of which major to declare when the time comes.
Remember, you are just beginning a path toward the person you will become. You don’t need to know for sure what goal you are aiming toward before you finish high school. Once you are in college, you will be met with new challenges, new opportunities and a new chance to discover what your future academic and professional goals are so you can choose the right major when the decision is clear.