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Avoiding the Big Mistake – Choosing the Wrong Major

It’s really all about balancing conflict. There are fields of study you have a passion for. Then there are fields that you know can land you a good job and future career. And often these are completely different. This is the dilemma faced by many young people as they think about their college majors – the passion versus the reality. Clearly, some careful thought will be required. But if you go about it in a somewhat organized fashion, you may be able to find that balance – majoring in something that truly interests you and that will also result in a sustainable career.

Rule #1 - Don’t Stress

Yes, college is all about choosing a major field of study, getting that degree and going on to pursue a career in that field. But many students enter their freshman year not having chosen a major yet. And there is no reason to panic if this is you.

The first two years are pretty much consumed with general education requirements, and these have two purposes: first, to give you a general knowledge and skill base and second, to allow you to explore your potential interests.

The other thing to remember is that changing a major is very common. Lots of students enter college with a firm decision only to have that decision change as they get into their studies.

The key for you is to take your time, carefully consider your passions and your interests and try to find a major that will work best for you. And don’t forget, you can also declare a “minor,” which will give you an additional option in terms of career.

Some students even choose dual majors – this reduces their elective options and may entail an extra semester, but it may be well worth it in the long run.


The Choice Process

There are some logical steps you can take as you think about a major for school. Here they are in order:

  1. 1.    Make a List

Most people have a few areas of interest. You might love music but also technology and perhaps journalism and others. If you can, rate them from the most to least interesting. What excites you? What courses did you love the most in high school? These will be important clues as you make your list and try to prioritize your options.

See if there are combinations that go well together. Journalism and digital marketing might be a great combo for you.

Another important note here:  You must remember that career patterns today are not like they were in your parents’ and grandparents’ times. In those days, individuals would begin a career path and stay on that path until they retired, often with the same company. Life is different now. It is estimated that most graduates will change careers between 5-7 times in their working lives – that’s careers, not jobs. Job changes are even more numerous.  Anyway, whatever career you choose, it always starts with resume and it should be perfect. You can achieve it easily using myessayslab.

As rapidly as the world is changing, you should probably see your major and the first related career position you get as less than permanent.

  1. 2.    Assess Your Current Skill Level

If you have not had some serious high school study in life sciences, then choosing a field in medicine or biology may be a bit “off.” If you love architecture but your math skills are pretty poor, this will not be a good fit. On the other hand, if you love art and have an interest in computers, a graphic design might be perfect.

The point is this: You need to make an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses while you are also considering what you love. You might even consider undergoing a formal career SWOT analysis.

  1. 3.    What Do You Value in Work?

This is something that students don’t often think about but should. For example, do you value helping others? Do you want to make an impact by improving even a small piece of society in some way? If so, becoming a Wall Street investment broker is probably not a good career choice, so a business major may not be wise.

Do you enjoy working alone or as part of a collaborative team?

Are you looking for security and stability or do you have a need for risk?

Are you happy with a set and organized schedule, or do you thrive on flexibility and uncertainty?

There are majors that fit with these various types of “work styles,” so add your preferences into the majors you are considering.

  1. 4.    Do the Research

For each potential major, you will need to conduct some research. Questions to ask are the following:

  • What are the job prospects for this major?
  • What income can I expect?
  • What level of education will I need? There are many majors for which a Bachelor’s, even a Master’s, will not be enough. If a major will require a Ph.D. in order to enter a career field, you must weigh the cost and the rigorous coursework. Do you think you will be able to make the commitment of 12-18 months to write a dissertation?
  • Will this major allow transitions to other careers when and if this becomes necessary or desirable?

Let It All Simmer

Once you have been through the four steps above, sit back and let it rest. Unless you are nearing the end of your sophomore college year, there is no immediate decision to be made. You need to reflect on your core values and passions and allow those to ultimately drive the decision you make.

You might also talk with others who have majored in those fields you are considering. Are they like you? Do they love what they are doing? This is one piece of advice given by Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling Onto Happiness.

Yes, choosing a major is a hefty decision. But give yourself the time you need to weigh all of the options and pursue what will make you happy.

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