How To Evaluate and Choose College Majors

Many of us spend a great deal of time as we go through childhood thinking about what we want to be when we "grow up."  Finally the day comes when we can no longer just think about it and we have to make a decision. This often means choosing a college major. Determining what major is best for you can seem overwhelming. The good news is that with some careful thought and research, choosing a college major need not leave you in a panic.

The following strategies should prove useful in choosing a college major:

  1. Take a good long look in the mirror: The best place to start, in determining your college major, is by assessing your interests and abilities. This may require careful thought and a good deal of honest self-assessment. Make a list of what your strengths and weaknesses are and then look at what area you are skilled at or have the potential to gain skills in. These factors will be important to you as you get to later steps in the decision-making process and begin to research various careers. While you are assessing these areas, it is helpful to make a list of what areas you are interested in and where your passions lie. Successful and happy career professionals find a way to incorporate their skills and interests into their chosen career.
  2. Analyze what you value in a career: This requires some introspective thought about who you are and what makes you tick. Critique such areas as your need for title or prestige in your ultimate career, income potential, need for job security, and whether contributing to society is important. Other critical factors to consider include how you deal with pressure, your ability to work with others, and your need for independence.  Along with this, evaluate how much time you are willing to put into a career. This means not just the time it will take to obtain a degree but also the schedule commitments that may be required of you once you are physically working in your chosen career.
  3. Get counseling: Most high schools, colleges, universities and trade schools have career counseling centers available to students and potential students. These centers offer trained career counselors to work with you not only as you determine a suitable path of study but also throughout your educational experience. Career counselors have at their disposal a number of useful tools, strategies, and resources to aid you in narrowing down your choice of a major.
  4. Research and investigate: Job centers and libraries are excellent resources for researching careers. The more you know about various majors, the better prepared you will be to make an appropriate choice. Another great means of researching a major is to make arrangements to sit in on classes directly related to that major. This will give you firsthand exposure to the type of information and expectations of students majoring in a given topic. If you can, make arrangements to shadow someone directly involved in the career(s) you are interested in.  This is a perfect way to determine what majors are needed to get into that profession and evaluate if you are suited to that particular type of work.

Choosing a college major is a "major" decision but there are limitless resources available to assist you along the way. By doing your homework, seeking professional advice, and ultimately trusting your natural instincts, you are sure to pick the major that meets your needs and career aspirations.


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