How to Choose an Undergraduate Major

Many college students have great difficulty choosing an undergraduate major. Because a course of study often has a decisive effect on future career options, it can be difficult to decide on a major within the first two years of study at a university. Although each institution is different in terms of the breadth of its options and its policies regarding major selection, the factors that need to be considered when researching how to choose an undergraduate major are the same. The steps below will highlight the main things you need to take into account during this decision and provide guidance for your search.

Steps

  1. Identify your main strengths and interests as a student and group them into rough academic categories such as "math and engineering," "social sciences," or "policy studies."

  2. Review each major or course of study offered by your institution in each of the interest areas you have identified.

  3. Learn about the courses, grades, languages, and other requirements for each major and decide whether you can realize these requirements.

  4. Speak with a current student, major adviser, or professor from each major you have identified and ask them about their own experience with major selection.

  5. Find out about career options available for people who graduate with the majors which you are investigating. If these options sound appealing to you, move ahead in considering these majors. If they do not, or if you want to pursue another career for which you will be ill-prepared with a certain major, drop it from consideration

  6. Sit in on upper-level courses offered to the students in the majors you are considering. These will give you a much better idea of what it is like to be a student in this major than taking an introductory course, which may be directed towards non-majors.

  7. Plot out a few different courses of study you might pursue, remembering to include general and major requirements. Decide which courses sound most appealing to you.

  8. Consider the possibility of double-majoring if you cannot decide between two or more majors. Also look into minors for fields of interest. Remember that major selection does not always dictate career choice: choosing an undergraduate major rarely locks you into a certain field for life.

  9. Plan out a course of study in which you prepare for a certain career (such as pre-med) while at the same time pursuing another passion as a major.

  10. Make your final decision about a major when you are alone and without speaking with other people about the matter for at least a few days. Professors, parents, and other students should offer you advice, but they should not make the decision for you.

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