Choosing a college major can be as easy as deciding how you want to spend your weekend. While you have plenty of options to choose from, you’ll probably end up picking what you enjoy most.
The question you have to ask yourself is, what is right for me right now?
Seems too simple, right? Yet, if you consider that declaring a college major doesn’t have to be the same as selecting a career, the choice becomes a little less intimidating. It then becomes a decision of finding out what interests you most, rather than determining what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.
Take Dr. Geoffrey Zoeller, for instance. He majored in biochemistry as an undergraduate and now he’s superintendent of Westwood Regional Schools in New Jersey. “I became a chemistry teacher when I graduated, but I eventually went back to school to get my master’s and then my doctorate in education,” Zoeller says. “What you major in as an undergrad leads you to your first job only.”
Students have a common misconception that their major will determine their career. That’s what Rutgers University (rutgers.edu) junior Nikhaar Kishnani thought. She had problems deciding on a major, because she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. That was until her father advised her to “do whatever interests you, because that’s what’s going to get you somewhere.” Now she’s majoring in journalism with a minor in African Middle Eastern and South Asian languages and literatures.
So perhaps you’re thinking that this sounds way too good to be true. It doesn’t have to be. You can major in something you love and still get a great job. Here’s the secret: Know what is right for you by following your interests!
“Interests are the best predictor of career satisfaction,” says Micael Kemp, career services director at the University of California, Santa Barbara (www.ucsb.edu). Lisa Alexander agrees. She was an accountant for 10 years until she realized she was more interested in talking to people and helping to motivate and empower them. She returned to school to get a master’s in counseling and now she’s a career counselor at Raritan Valley Community College (www.raritanval.edu) in New Jersey.
Don’t know your interests? Then explore!
Go to the bookstore and pull out books on your possible major. “If, as you’re doing this, you find yourself really interested in these books, … (it’s) going to be a good major for you,” Kemp says.
“If, on the other hand, you’re bored to tears and feel as if you may become comatose, it’s probably not the right major for you.”
Zoeller also stresses that it’s important to keep in mind what you want to do and to have as many different experiences as possible.
Choose what you’re good at
Georgia’s Kennesaw State University (www.kennesaw.edu) junior Merline Beauvil thought she wanted to be a math major until she took the prerequisite course, mathematical skills, and realized she wasn’t good at it. Now she’s majoring in human services. After changing her major four times, she finally found something she both loves and excels in.
“Study something you’re excited about, because you’re going to get better grades when you do that,” Beauvil says.
Get out of the classroom!
Take your nose out of the books and get your hands dirty; it will increase your chances of securing a job. According to a 2010 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, post-graduates with related internship experience are more likely to find a job than those without any.
“In a lot of cases, what you study in school doesn’t have much to do with the actual skills that employers like to see in job candidates,” Kemp says. “We encourage students strongly to seek out-of-class experience where they can develop the kinds of skills that employers want.”
Find a passion project
Nicole Crimaldi, founder of www.mscareergirl.com, majored in finance and is now being offered a marketing job. Meanwhile, her only marketing experience was the kind she took the initiative to procure for herself, such as her blog, website and online marketing classes.
“I’m just a normal girl, but because I used a couple of hours before work or after work differently than my peers … I’m now able to transition into a field completely different from what I majored in,” she says.
What you can do right now?
Now you know what to do when you get to college, but what can you do now? Zoeller recommends exposing yourself to a variety of new experiences.
“Learn what’s out there. Exposure is important, because there are majors you don’t even know exist yet. Take anthropology, for instance. There are no classes on that in high school.”
If after reading this you’re still worried about choosing a major, consider that people change their major about five to seven times, according to Kemp. There is more than one route you can travel to get you to your destination.
“Undergraduate studies are really just an exploration of the self and your interests,” says Kishnani. “It’s just a stepping stone, so do whatever you enjoy.”