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Major Decisions: How to Choose a College Major

Choosing a college major can seem like a daunting task, especially if you haven’t been exposed to college-level courses or summer internships. However, although a “major decision” may seem final, academic majors are actually quite fluid, and it's common for incoming first-year students to change their majors before graduating. In fact, I entered college as a psychology major and ended as an English major, so rest assured that the major listed on your college applications does not have to define your college career. That caveat aside, your major will have a big effect on your education and shaping the ways you filter knowledge. Your major could also affect the clubs you are exposed to, the friends you make, and the academic interests you develop. If you choose a major that’s a poor fit, it could even lower your enthusiasm for your academic course load.

To choose the right major, it's important to be sensitive to your interests and strengths in order to balance the two. If you are interested in economics but not very strong in the area, choosing economics as a major could be interesting yet challenging. The course load might even be so challenging that it becomes stressful, which could hurt your college experience. Conversely, if you breezed through math in high school, a math major may be boring. One great compromise may be majoring in math and minoring in economics. Another solution could be to major in finance or business, which combines math and economics.

A second solution could be to enter college as an undecided major and take a diverse course load your first year. Many colleges and universities encourage incoming first-year students to take a variety of introductory level courses, and your first-year course load could include Biology 101, Math 101, Psychology 101, Human Development 101, and Introductory English. Most liberal arts colleges require a certain number of “related courses” (courses outside your major) on your transcript, and your first-year is a great way to take care of some of those core requirements. In the end, a totally unexpected major like Human Development & Family Studies (HDFS) may end up being the most interesting; a diverse course load is the best way to make sure you end up in the right major.

Another way to choose a major is to talk to others who have graduated with degrees you’re interested in. For example, if you are considering being a psychology major, try talking to other adults or college students who majored in psychology. Ask them probing questions like what their favorite course was, what surprised them about the major, and how they're using the degree now. Another idea is to chat with people who have jobs you admire or find interesting. Learning their majors could help inspire your own.

You may find that many adults have careers that are only tangentially related to their college majors. This is typical of a liberal arts education, which seeks to broadly educate students on a range of topics and focus more directly on critical thinking and effective problem solving, skills that can be applied to many different careers. For example, while my degree was in English, my primary job is related to website management and graphic design. I use the communication and analytical skills gleaned from my college degree to analyze patterns in web traffic data while trying to effectively communicate school information. At the end of the day, your major will become be influenced by your passions and interests, leading to a truly unique educational experience.

Caitlin Garzi

Written by Caitlin Garzi

Caitlin Garzi is the Assoc. Dir. Of Digital Marketing for Cheshire Academy. She works with CAScratchUp bloggers and maintains the look and feel of the blog.

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