If you’ve been to a college fair or talked with a college representative you know that majors are a main topic of conversation. The first question many students ask me is if my school has the major they are looking for. Although I agree that this can be a good way to help determine which school might be right for you, I find that many students don’t fully understand how majors work and how they can help you focus your college search.

In my experience advising students about majors, there are three types of people.  Student #1 has no idea what their major will be. Student #2 is confident about the major they need for their future career. Student #3 might have a variety of different options they think might be right for them.

Student #1:  If you don’t know what you want to study, it’s ok to say “Undecided “. At most schools there will be general education courses you need to take to meet graduation requirements in addition to the classes for your major. You can focus on the general education courses while you are determining which major is right for you. You might choose a school based on other factors such as location, athletics, financial aid package, or even food in the cafeteria. But be sure to consider what areas of study are interesting to you and make sure the school has a variety of majors so you have good options when you’re ready to pick.

Student #2: You are confident that you’ve picked the one major that leads directly to your dream profession/career. Have you done any research to be sure and do you know what it’s called? A student recently told me that she wanted to be a “businessing” major.  You might get a good laugh out of that if you know that there is no such major. I speak with students all the time who are convinced that they know the specific degree they need for their desired career and often they have been misinformed.  For example, students commonly tell me they want to major in CSI (Crime Scene Investigating). While this is a potential career, this is not a major.  People who work in this field have studied areas such as forensic science, psychology, criminal justice, or even biology or chemistry. Try to keep an open minded when someone suggests a different major than what you thought you needed. You may have more options than you think.

You should also know that there are various paths (different majors) that can get you to that dream job. I have talked to many students that believe there is only one major that will lead them to their dream job. In many cases this is not true. Different schools have different names for majors. For example, at William Jessup University we don’t have a “political science” major but we do have a “public policy” major that will allow you to prepare for similar jobs. If students are determined to only have one specific title for a major, they will potentially miss out on great programs and schools that will prepare them for the same job. If you like what a school has to offer but they don’t have the one major you think you need, ask questions. I encourage you to ask college representatives if they have any majors that will help you prepare for a specific career. They may have a major that will work well for what you want to do.

Student #3. Options are good…to a point. If you are thinking that you want to be a doctor, or go into ministry or study to be a chef, you should consider narrowing things down. These areas of study are very different and in many cases, could lead you to three different schools. When a student shares with me a wide variety of interests, I try to help consider what they are most passionate about.  At most schools you have the flexibility to change majors but doing that too many times can add years of additional study and expense. If the school you like most requires you to declare a major, ask them how easy it is to change later.

Regardless of the major you select, getting a well-rounded education and studying what you are passionate about will make you a better professional.  Try not to let choosing a major stress you out. Over the years I’ve talked to graduates about the careers they have and how they relate to their major in college. Many people work within the field they studied and some do not. Try to see your major more as a way to guide your studies not as limiting your future.

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