Question: “How do I go about choosing a college major?”
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
My best words of advice for teens panicking and feeling anxious about not being certain about a college major? The three R’s: relax, reflect, research. College is a time to really discover what the adult within you wants to do with your life — or at least the next phase of your life.
Use your first year of college to really explore who you are, what you like, and what you want to do. Experiment. Take a variety of classes. Talk with older students in various majors. Meet with professors and talk with them about careers. Go to your college’s career-services office and take some career interest assessments. Research potential majors, careers, and jobs. Join a variety of student organizations.
And don’t feel pressured to make any decisions right away. Most first-year students take very similar courses — regardless of their major — as most colleges have a set of foundation or core courses that all students must complete. Yes, some students enter college knowing exactly what they want to major in — perhaps even knowing their career goals too — but that doesn’t mean you have to jump to any decision right away.
Remember to take advantage of these resources to help you choose a college major:
- Your college’s course catalog — you’ll be amazed at the wealth of information you can find here… from required courses to specialized majors and tracks.
- Your professors, including your academic adviser — talk with your professors, whether you have taken a class with them or not… many of them have worked in the field in which they teach and all are experts about careers and career opportunities.
- Your classmates, especially upper-division (juniors and seniors) students — these are the folk who are deep into their major, perhaps already having had an internship or gone through job interviews. Use them as a resource to gather more information.
- Your college’s alumni — unless your college was just founded, your school probably has a deep and varied group of alums, many of whom like to talk with current students, so use them as a resource to gather more information about careers.
- Your family and friends — there’s a wealth of information right at your fingertips. Next time you go home or call home, ask your family about majors and careers.
- Your college’s career center — almost always under-appreciated, these folk have such a wealth of information at their fingertips that it is a shame more students don’t take advantage of them… and not just in your senior year. Start visiting in your first year because most have resources for choosing a major and a career, as well as internship and job placement information.
For more advice and resources, please read my article published on Quintessential Careers: Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path. You can also review this section of Quintessential Careers: What Can I do With a Major in…? to find information on jobs for specific college majors.
And for all you first-year students trying to make the transition from home and high school to college, read this article on Quintessential Careers: Your First Year of College: 25 Tips to Help You Survive and Thrive Your Freshman Year and Beyond.
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor’s Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.
See a list of all the most common college, career, and job questions — and Dr. Hansen’s solutions.
Who is the Career Doctor? Learn more, read his current career column, or browse the column archives when you visit the Career Doctor’s homepage.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is a nationally recognized career and job-search expert. He is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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