When it comes to college, many of us are dead set on the major we want to study. But there are likely just as many people who either cannot decide between interests or simply have no idea. Some people are committed to their passion and others take a more pragmatic approach and base decisions on trends in the workforce. With these key insights in mind, how can college freshmen know what to major in before college?
Picking a college major should be based on both an interest in a field and an end goal to determine what career field satisfies the student and is realistic. All freshmen should spend some time recognizing what their skills are and then predicting an ideal path to take upon degree completion.
All of this is easier said than done, and so many freshmen become intimidated by the finality of the decision. Therefore, this guide will explore some of the common problems that incoming freshmen face when trying to decide what direction to take their lives in. We will look at ways to find exactly what your major should be as well as if you are making the right decision. Read on to find out more.
How To Find Your College Major
How to find a major in college is predominantly set out by your passion for a field or some investigating to see what skills or themes you are good at. You can always take a “what should my college major be quiz” but you may find that the answer is buried deep within you, it’s just a matter of scanning your interests to find it.
First and foremost, ask yourself what is my passion? Has there been a field offered as a college major that you have always dreamed about joining? For example, many artistic and creative fields are widely represented in the humanities and liberal arts. Everything from historians to filmmakers and bestselling authors is represented within this field.
Also, apply some realistic goals and backup plans when considering a humanities degree. Are you okay with accepting a teaching position if you cannot immediately achieve these dreams? In other words, is your dream and an acceptable backup plan possible with a humanities degree?
Alternatively, you may want to become a physician the most. But the real educational work of becoming a medical doctor starts after the completion of the undergraduate degree. You should inquire if your chosen university has a pre-med program, but this is not a major, and you will still need to select an undergraduate degree.
Most aspiring physicians choose to major in either biology or chemistry when they are an undergraduate. This is because both of these fields complement and fit widely into the concepts and overall work that medical doctors do. If you want to become a psychiatrist, then majoring in psychology as an undergrad before medical school is a solid choice.
Always remember that at least within the first two years of college, you can change your major if you feel like you are going in the wrong direction. But if you want to try and avoid this indecisiveness, it helps to pick the right major at the beginning.
How To Pick the Right Major in College
First, congrats on getting the most important thing out of the way by selecting a college. College selection is important if for any other reason that you will be there for the next four years.
But picking a major has been a problem for undecided freshmen for decades. Nobody should make the decision but you, and this is essentially a decision that will define your life’s work. Since it can be confusing to pinpoint your goals and dreams into categories, let’s take a look at each of the most popular schools within colleges and explain what types of professions align with the category.
Humanities can also be known as liberal arts, and the primary meaning of the field aligns with branches of art, creativity, philosophy, religion, history, literature, and even fine arts such as illustration, painting, filmmaking, film studies, photography, fashion, design, architecture, and subfields within all these disciplines.
For example, let’s say that you have a passion for cinema as an art form, but you may not have any inclination to actually be a filmmaker. You may picture yourself teaching film theory, writing for movie publications, critiquing films, archiving film, analyzing film at the scholarly level; all of these goals align with film studies as opposed to filmmaking.
The same can be true for any specific art-based passion that looks at the art form from a level of interpretation, analysis, and scholarly applications. You may want to teach the history of an art form and not necessarily receive a degree in the actual art form. All of these fragmented details can cause confusion for college freshmen.
One way to reconcile all of this confusion is to focus solely on the different majors offered inside the school of humanities or liberal arts. With each major offered, find the one that closely aligns with what it is you want to do within the field. Contact the chair of the department for further assistance or see if there is a way to major in an interdisciplinary sampling of fields within the humanities.
Schools and departments of education within a university can also be confusing. Many people who major in education are clear that they want to teach elementary school or middle and high school within secondary education. Others will want to become college professors, which typically requires a doctoral degree and therefore causes confusion on what path to take in education to get there.
Some students may want to teach at community colleges or become an adjunct, which requires a master’s degree in a field within higher education in addition to teaching experience typically. What path do these students take at the undergraduate level?
If you want to teach elementary, middle, or high school, those fields are clear-cut. You can major in either elementary or secondary education and choose the field you wish to specialize in as your minor, for example, English, history, mathematics, etc. If you wish to work with students with learning disabilities, many education degrees also offer this as a specialty.
If you want to become a college professor, it is important to know exactly what you want to teach. With that in mind, major in that study as an undergrad and then in graduate school to receive a master’s degree in the same field or a similar field. Then you will need to apply for doctoral programs to receive a Ph.D.
You could also choose to receive a master’s degree in a field that is offered as a community college course or even become an adjunct in that field at universities. To receive teaching experience, always check and see if your college offers any sort of teaching assistant programs to gain this experience the easy way. Be sure and major in the subject you wish to teach before getting to graduate school.
Healthcare in the United States is such a wide-ranging field. The basic composition of healthcare will always revolve around doctors, physician assistants, pharmacologists, pharmacists, and the many different types of nurses and aides, technicians, and specialists that hold the system together.
If you want to become a physician, always check for and apply for pre-med courses if they are offered at your college. These courses are a great introduction to what you can expect in medical school, and many medical schools look favorably upon candidates that have successfully completed these courses.
When choosing a major, it helps to think specifically about what kind of physician you want to be. As previously mentioned, most all fields in medicine are rooted in biology and chemistry at least on a broad level. Therefore, either of these two is a satisfactory undergrad major to receive a degree in.
If you want to be a psychologist (psychiatry requires medical school), majoring in psychology is essential, and you can do the same in graduate school and then go on to successfully receive a Ph.D. or Psy.D in psychology at the doctoral level.
Perhaps you want to become a nurse? First, what kind of nurse do you wish to become? A Registered Nurse (RN) is available at most colleges as an undergraduate degree and typically leads to a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. If you choose this route, you can also choose to specialize in certain nursing fields, such as emergency medicine nursing or psychiatric nursing.
You could also choose to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP). This field is an advanced nursing degree discipline that combines all of the essential roles of an RN with additional fields such as pharmacology and diagnosis and treatment of patients. Most NP’s also become efficient in their field by earning masters and even doctoral degrees in nursing.
Engineering is also another broad and scattered career field that can cause headaches for college freshmen. Thankfully, most colleges offer degrees in chemical, mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering.
It just becomes a matter of deciding which of these you would excel in and enjoy, as well as finding out what you specifically want to do in engineering and where it falls within these spectrums.
But there can be some instances where the type of engineering degrees offered imply that a specific type of engineer would fall into the category.
For example, let’s say you wished to be an agricultural engineer. If the college you have chosen does not specifically offer agricultural engineering as a degree, you can major in mechanical engineering as its closest parent engineering field and then choose to obtain a master’s degree in agricultural engineering.
The best method would be to find a college that offers agricultural engineering as an undergraduate degree, but if you are set to attend a particular college that doesn’t, all hope is not lost and you can even expand your knowledge of engineering in the process.
If in doubt, always contact the chairs of the engineering degree programs and state what it is you wish to do and ask what path is best to achieve that goal.
An easy out to take with computer science is to just major in the field as a whole. But you may feel as if you are missing out on any specific subsets in computer science that might also be offered.
For example, you may want to design and develop video games but you will feel like a standard computer science degree would not cover this enough to your liking. In cases like this, you will want to specifically major in something like video game development or design if it is available, and if not, you will be well-suited with a degree in computer science by which you can then pursue a graduate degree in video game design and development.
This is why it is important to reconcile all these particulars long before you accept a college offer of admission. There are always main areas of concentration like computer science, but there may not be additional degrees available in a specific category within computer science.
In situations like this, do some self-assessment on where your passionate interests are within computer science. If you have no issue going further and obtaining a master’s degree, feel free to major in computer science as an undergrad. This is one of those situations where the overarching degree may clash with a specific desired field inside of a broad degree.
You are on the right track with computer science, just do some searching of your interests to determine if there is a specific field in computer science that interests you the most.
Many high school graduates who want to become an attorney are content with that goal. But there can be confusion once you get to college because you will need to make decisions on the type of lawyer you will become.
Much like medical doctors, there is no specific trajectory to pursue before you arrive at law school, but nearly all jurisdictions will require a bachelor’s degree. Many freshmen will choose to major in criminal justice since it aligns most commonly with the work of an attorney. But you do not necessarily have to choose this major.
Law schools will typically pay close attention to a student’s GPA instead of focusing on the field of the bachelor’s degree. With this in mind, majoring in business, political science, history, English, or even journalism set out some of the problem-solving skills and traits that come with being an attorney.
For this one, you can pick and choose and just make sure you graduate with an above-average GPA.
Many freshmen may wish to do something within the field of communications without even realizing their passion falls into this field. Schools and departments of communication essentially mean just that–this field revolves heavily around careers that focus on communication and engaging with people usually in the context of relations or advertising.
You may have a dream of becoming a radio personality but you also want to have a college degree to your credit and to stand out in the competition. The degree for you would certainly be well-suited to communication. Dreams and goals such as this should always have a realistic backup plan for the journey because the field is so razor-thin and small.
While you are working towards your dream, you will still have a communications degree that can secure your work in a closely related field.
A communications degree covers a wide range of careers. You could easily fit into public relations, advertising, social media management, media, and event planning, managerial positions within communications-based businesses and firms, news reporting, and even journalism.
This field can be tricky and is often one of the most misunderstood at the college level. But your dream career could easily be covered in this major.
Majoring in business can often cause some uncertainty with college freshmen. Business is such a broad field, and so many other degrees may actually be more aligned for what it is you really want to do.
For instance, you may wish to become an economist but you realize that economics as a discipline is not always associated with business as a major. The reality is that this is an example of looking too far into the degree that you miss some key points about the field. Economics is in fact a major section within a business degree, and this major would actually help fulfill this goal.
Additionally, you may feel like going into public relations sounds as if a business degree is the best course of action, but actually, a communications degree aligns with that career more specifically.
Always remember that majoring in business should mean that you are on the track to run, manage, or provide insights into how business can improve and evolve as the century goes on. A major as broad as business can be confusing for many students, so only choose this degree if you want to go into the financial and market-based aspects of the American economy.
Can You Create Your Own Major in College?
Thankfully, many colleges will allow you to design your very own major if you cannot decide on a major. But there are many details that go along with this to be aware of. For most universities, this process is known as individualized study, which means that undeclared freshmen will work with an advisor and/or a sponsoring professor to create their own chosen course of study.
This type of major is interdisciplinary in structure and will typically lead to what is known as a BA or BS in Interdisciplinary Studies. This degree relies solely on the study, and in most circumstances, you must construct, design, and defend the content and final goal of the degree all on your own.
It is an ambitious undertaking, but this is truly a great resource for incoming college freshmen or those undeclared by years two or three to consider.
Can you go through college without a major?
At most colleges, specifically colleges heavily reliant on schools and departments of study, you can enter as a freshman with an undeclared major. Most colleges are designed to the point where you cant take a large amount of overall general education commitments, at least throughout the first year, that you can spend some extra time before having to declare a major by years two or three.
At some point, you will need to declare a major based on the guidelines recommended by academic advisors. You can consider taking on an individualized study major or in some instances, a college may allow you to graduate and automatically declare you as a liberal arts major.
It is important to declare a major and receive a specific degree if, for any other reason, this will situate you adequately when applying to enter the career world.
How late can you declare a major in college?
In most colleges, you will usually need to declare a major by the end of your sophomore year. You can take freshmen and sophomore year as undeclared and wipe out any general education courses and electives as your choice. If you haven’t decided on a major by the end of your sophomore year, consider applying for and creating an individualized study degree if this is offered at your university.
In summary, it is important to decide on and declare a specific major but this is not set in stone during the freshmen year. Consider all of these tips before you apply for colleges and especially in the months leading up to freshmen year.
Assess your skills, abilities, and most of all, your interests. Look at each major offered and find where your goals fit into it. Consider individualized study opportunities if you cannot decide.