Some students arrive at college with their major already decided and a clear plan. For others, the decision doesn’t come as easily. But declaring your major is an important part of your college experience, and more importantly, a first step in your future career and earning potential.
Whether you’re undecided about your major, double major, or a minor, here are seven tips to help with the process.
Tip 1: Work with your academic advisor
Your advisor is an invaluable resource when it comes to choosing your major. He or she can fill you in on the rules and regulations — such as how many minors you can have, the date you need to declare by, and individual requirements for each major — as well as provide you with opinions and advice.
Tip 2: Read course descriptions
Your major will determine the courses you take throughout your remaining time in college, so make sure the classes interest you. Take a good look at the course catalog and review both requirements and electives for the majors you’re considering. Ask yourself: Does this coursework excite me? Is this something I would enjoy pursuing? Will I learn things I can apply in the workforce?
Tip 3: Look into job opportunities
Is your major marketable? Some majors have clear career paths associated with them; others, not so much. CollegeBoard’s major and career search can be a helpful tool in your search. Check out the job opportunities for any majors you’re considering and see if they interest you for a future a career. However, don’t feel too locked in: Some majors can have wide-ranging and diverse potential paths.
Tip 4: Research entry-level salaries
Search the typical salaries for the jobs you’re considering using sites like Glassdoor or by consulting your school’s career services center. While following your passion is important, so is taking financial responsibility for your future. It’s a good move to start salary research and set reasonable expectations for your first salary.
Tip 5: Consider graduate school implications
Be aware that career tracks for certain majors require education beyond an undergraduate degree. Those on a pre-med track, for example, must plan for four years of medical school, after college, followed by residency. Do you have the resources to continue school for several more years? If the answer is “no,” there are resources that may be available to you. However, you must keep in mind that graduate school can be a major financial undertaking, and be sure to factor that into your decision-making.
Tip 6: Consult upperclassmen
Talk with upperclassmen in your desired field at your college or university. These students are well underway in your potential field of study and can provide tons of insight on what the coursework is like, who their favorite professors are, and the internships and jobs they’ve possibly lined up.
Tip 7: Do a “trial run”
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to two or three areas of study that you feel passionate about, it can be helpful to try them out. Inquire about sitting in on classes for each major you’re considering, talk to a professor in that major during office hours, read a sample of the course materials, and, if applicable, attend a meeting for the academic society or club associated with that major. You’ll quickly get a real sense of what it would be like to pursue that field.
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