For many prospective college students, deciding on a major can be a daunting challenge. Ideally, the major you select should meet your needs from both a practical and personal perspective.
The ultimate goal should be to pursue an academic path that will lead to an abundance of short and long-term career opportunities. It also needs to be in tune with your interests and abilities. The following tips can help you identify a major that fulfills these requirements.
Explore Your Interests
An important first step in selecting a major is to perform an honest self-assessment. Begin by exploring your personal interests and passions. Think about the types of jobs or careers that you find appealing.
Ask yourself this question: “If I could make a living doing anything I wanted, what would I choose?” Don’t worry about the practical considerations at this point — just let your imagination run free!
Examine Your Abilities
The next step is to ask yourself, “What am I good at?” Do you have a strong mechanical aptitude? Are you proficient at solving complex problems? Do you communicate well with others?
Think about which subjects you’ve exceled in during your academic career thus far and look for a pattern. If you’ve always been good at math, for instance, you may do well in a major that entails working with numbers such as accounting. Ask your parents, friends and teachers what they consider to be your strongest abilities.
What Do You Value Most?
An often overlooked but extremely important factor when choosing a major is whether it will lead to a career that is in tune with what you value the most. Another way to look at this is to think about your ideal work environment.
Would you prefer working alone or as part of a team? Would you rather work with people, ideas or things? Would you thrive in a hectic work environment, or do you need a job that allows you to go at your own pace. Would you perform better in a structured environment, or are you at your best when given a high level of autonomy to do things your own way?
What Types of Courses Must You Take?
Once you have identified some majors that you believe to be suited to your interests, aptitudes and values, begin to examine the types of courses you will be required to take in order to determine if there is a good fit. Explore course catalogs from various institutions of higher learning and think about similar courses you may have taken earlier in your academic career.
Have you excelled in these types of courses or have you had to struggle just to get through them? For instance, while you may be excited by the prospect of working with animals, a science-based curriculum that is part of a Veterinary Technician program may not be an ideal match if you have always been weak in biology or chemistry.
How Much of a Time Commitment Are You Willing to Make?
Another key factor when choosing a major is the amount of time it will take to earn a diploma/degree. Does the career you desire require certification, which can often be obtained in a year or less, or do you need a two-year, four-year or advanced degree? Do you want/need to get started on your new career as quickly as possible, or are you fine with waiting several years to enter the workforce? Are you planning on being a full-time student, or do you want to study while you maintain regular employment?
Matching Majors With Career Options
It’s also a good idea to see what types of career options are available to graduates in your chosen field of study to determine what the future holds for your desired career. A good resource to turn to is the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You’ll find lots of valuable information about academic requirements for various careers as well as short and long-term job prospects, salaries and more.
Resources to Guide You in the Decision-Making Process
If you would like further guidance in selecting the right college major for you, a friendly and knowledgeable Vista College Admissions Representative will be happy to assist you. If you are a high school student, your guidance counselor can also be a valuable resource. There are a number of online self-assessment tests that are available at no charge that can also point you in the right direction.
Above all, don’t panic. With a little thought and effort you’ll be able to make a well-informed decision!