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What Should I Major In? How to Choose a Major in 5 Easy Steps!

two feet standing by the words "passion led us here"

What should I major in? It’s one of the biggest questions for prospective college students, and for good reason.

Choosing a major in college can be difficult because it is a decision that will usually impact your future career and overall path in life. A lot rests on the decision, and you want to get it right. 

So, how do you choose the right one? In this article, we'll cover the steps you should take to find the right major for you. 

What is a major in college?

The first step in choosing a major is understanding what it is. Put simply, a major is a single specialty or study area that every college student must choose and then complete to graduate.

Majors are available in a wide range of subjects, including those in the humanities (such as English, foreign languages, art, history, philosophy, and more) and those in STEM (including math, physics, biology, computer science, engineering, and more).

To earn a major, college students must complete several specialized classes and (in some cases) complete a thesis or final project. Though less common, students may double major. Graduates’ majors are listed on their degrees and are often considered by prospective employers.

Related to majors, minors are alternate specialties that require students to complete several classes (and, in fewer cases, a final project). As their name suggests, minors have fewer requirements than majors. They also do not supplant a major but rather complement it. 

For this reason, many college students add a minor or two to their major to boost their degree with more depth or breadth. For example, some STEM majors may have a STEM minor, while others may pursue minors in the humanities.

Why choosing a major is so hard

As we've already said, deciding what to major in can be challenging. Most students worry about making the wrong choice, ending up unhappy, having to change their major, and losing credits.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80% of college students change their major at least once. Moreover, many students change their major multiple times before graduating. 

But there are some other complicating factors, including:

  • Students usually lack knowledge and understanding of many fields of study or career options available. 
  1. Students feel pressure to choose a practical or lucrative major.

  2. Students often have difficulty identifying their personal interests and strengths. 

Have a major in mind already?

See which colleges offer what you're looking for.


When do you declare your major? 

Colleges set different timelines for when students must declare their majors and minors. In most cases, majors must be declared by the end of a student’s sophomore year, though exceptions exist.

Minors have significantly fewer requirements and can be declared later on in your collegiate career. For college applicants, listing potential majors (unofficially declaring them) can sometimes be beneficial for acceptance. This is up to the discretion of the student and the school in question. 

Answering the "what should I major in?" question

Now, what you've been waiting for. Here are the five steps for deciding on your major. 

1. Identify Your Interests and Passions  

Ideally, you should take advantage of a wide range of electives and extracurriculars at your high school to explore different subjects. This experience will help you discover your passions. Volunteering or participating in community service projects can also be a great way to dive deeper into your interests while positively impacting your community. 

Once you've experienced a variety of activities, reflect on what you enjoy most. Then, look for connections between what you find engaging and meaningful, areas of study, and corresponding careers. 

When choosing a major, you want to choose something you know isn't just a hobby or phase. If it takes you a year or two to figure that out before declaring a major, that's fine.

2. Research Different Careers & Majors

Look into various majors and the careers they can lead to. Once you think you know what you'd love to do, consider what that would look like as a full-time occupation. 

For instance, you may love your Sculpture 101 class, but can you really see yourself devoting the rest of your college career (and possibly the rest of your life) to this field? 

You should also consider what matters most to you in a career. Is it making a difference? Making as much money as possible? Having job security? Or even a great work-life balance?

How much could you make after college?

Create an account to see the average salary after attending any college. Get a sense of what you'd make if you went to that school.


3. Consider Career Outlook & Financial Goals  

We've all heard some majors are more marketable than others. While it's true you shouldn't major in a subject you hate just because you think it'll get you a job. You shouldn't necessarily major in something you love without regard to the job market. It's all about balance. 

Resources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics can be used to research job growth, salary expectations, and future demand in fields of interest.

If you really do want to study a subject that may not lead to a related full-time job after college, why not make it a minor? Many people love philosophy or creative writing but are unsure if they can enjoy a career in these subjects. So they choose an in-demand major and minor in something else they're interested in.

4. Seek Advice From Trusted Sources

While the process of choosing a major may sound daunting, it’s important to remember that many people have done it before. In fact, people in your immediate life likely have excellent personal or professional advice on choosing a major.

Teachers, career counselors, parents, and coaches are all excellent resources. Make time to talk to them before you make a decision. They may have input you can use to make the right choice.

Likewise, if you have a major or two that you’re strongly considering, it’s a good idea to reach out to professionals in your network or hometown who majored in those same subjects. They may have insights to help you along in your decision-making process. 

These professionals might also allow you to job shadow them, giving you even more insight into your decision. 

5. Evaluate Colleges & Build a List

Choosing a major is similar to choosing a college. If you’ve narrowed your choice down to a few majors, you should search for schools that offer those majors. Better yet, select a school that excels in the majors you’re considering.

If you have no idea what you’d like to major in, schools that emphasize a more well-rounded and exploratory education — such as you'll find at liberal arts colleges — may be the best option.

Overall, choosing a major requires careful consideration. It is important to take your time and do your research. 


Explore schools that offer your major


Choosing a major in college FAQs

What Electives Should I Take in High School?

Figuring out which high school electives suit your interests, skills, and class schedule can be tough. Think about what you love to do and what makes you happy as a guide when choosing classes for next year.

Then, with that added exposure, you may better understand how you’d feel working in a certain field.

What About Extracurriculars?

Being actively involved in high school can impact whether or not you get into your first-choice major or college. Do you love sports, crafts, politics, or writing? Find out which clubs can best serve your passions, which can help you network and gain real experience in the field of your choice!

Are Volunteer or Internship Opportunities Right for Me?

Volunteering or tutoring can provide insight into whether you’d enjoy getting a degree in that subject or activity. Most organizations are happy for people to give some of their time, so take advantage and start testing out majors and careers by volunteering.

Which Colleges Are a Good Fit?

Choosing a school that meets your academic, social, and budget requirements can be challenging. Add your interests to a list and research which colleges have majors in that subject. You may even discover some schools you never heard of!

The more colleges you connect with, the better your chances of ending up at a school that is truly the best match for you. Create an Appily account to find which schools match what’s most important to you—your budget, your majors, and your style.

What Scholarship Opportunities Are Open to Me?

While many scholarships are open to all types of students, it's not uncommon to see some awards that are restricted to students who want to major in a certain topic or work in a specific field.

So, if you want to study nursing or computer engineering, you can see if you qualify for any scholarships relating to those topics. You can also find general scholarships to help pay for college by making an Appily account

Choose Your Major with Appily!

Still asking yourself: “What should I major in?” Turn that question into action with our help here at Appily. Learn more about available majors by browsing our major's folder.

Or, take our quick college majors quiz for a curated list of suggestions that fit your personality and interests. Click the button below to get started. 


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