What Should I Major In? How to Choose a Major in 5 Easy Steps!
What should I major in? It’s one of the biggest questions for prospective college students for a good reason.
Choosing a major in college can be difficult because it is a decision that will usually significantly impact your future career and overall path in life. That means there's a lot resting on the decision, and you want to get it right.
So, how do you choose the right one? On this page, we’ll show you how.
What is a Major in College?
The first step to choosing a major is understanding what a major is. Put simply, a major is a single specialty or study area that every college student must choose and then complete.
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 uncommon, students may double major.) Graduates’ majors are listed on their degrees and requested by nearly every employer.
Related to majors, minors are alternate specialties requiring 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 supplement it.
For this reason, many college students add a minor or two to their major in order 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 is Choosing a Major So Hard?
As we've already mentioned, there's a lot riding on deciding what to major in. Most students worry about making the wrong choice and ending up unhappy or having to change their major and lose credits. But there are some other complicating factors, including:
- Students usually lack knowledge or understanding of many fields of study or career options.
Students feel pressure to choose a practical or lucrative major.
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.
As minors have significantly fewer requirements, they can be declared later on in a student’s 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 is the five-step processes for deciding on your major.
1. Identify Your Interests and Passions
Ideally, you should take advantage of a wide range of electives and extracurriculars in high schools to explore different subjects and 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 gotten exposure to a variety of different types of activities, reflect on what you enjoy most. Look for connections between what you find engaging and meaningful, areas of study, and careers.
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? 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.
Explore general education classes to get an idea of the fields that really excite you. It's also perfectly okay to change your major if you decide the subject isn't something you're truly interested in or passionate about.
2. Consider Career & Salary Outlook
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, either. It's all about balance.
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? Plenty of people love philosophy or creative writing but doubt they can make a career of these subjects. So they choose an in-demand major and minor in something else they're interested in.
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. Think About Your Career Goals
Maybe you've always known you want to be a teacher or geologist. In some cases, choosing a major is easy because it's directly related to the field you want to pursue.
However, it's not that easy for everyone! If you want to be a public relations professional in a school that doesn't have a designated PR program, you'll need to figure out a way to make your major relevant to your career goals. Maybe you will choose to major in communication and minor in marketing instead. You can absolutely frame this experience as relevant to a PR job later on.
4. Talk to School Advisors and Professionals
While the process of choosing a major may sound daunting, it’s important to remember that there are many people around who have done it before. In fact, there are likely several people in your immediate life who 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.
5. Choose the Right College
Choosing a major goes hand-in-hand with choosing a college. If you’ve narrowed your choice down to a few majors, you want to be sure to choose a school that offers 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 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.
Which Extracurriculars Do I Choose?
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, and this 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 relating to 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 really is the best match for you. Create a Appily account to find which schools match what’s most important to you — your budget, your majors, 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 a 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.