How to Choose the Best Major for You: A Q&A with College Students

This article has been syndicated from Honeybee Joyous, an InfluenceHer Collective Member. Read the full post here.

Choosing a major is one of the most significant decisions you can make in college. It influences a large number of the classes you take and sometimes can even impact your career post-graduation. Because it’s such a big decision, I knew I wanted to write a post about it. However, I only have so much experience with it and I really can’t speak for a lot of majors. I decided to get around the narrow field of my experience by doing what I always do when I need help — asking my friends. I’m lucky enough to have friends with a huge variety of interests and experiences and some of them were willing to share with you all!

I figured I’d start off with myself. I’m a senior double majoring in English and Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies (GSWS). I’m also enrolled in the fifth year master’s program at my school of education, so next year I’ll be getting my M.A.Ed. in Elementary Education.

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider?

loved English in high school, so I just naturally gravitated toward English classes and the English major. As for my GSWS major, I took the intro to gender, sexuality, women’s studies class my freshman year and loved it. And then I realized that tons of classes I was interested in taking were cross-listed with GSWS, so that major was just a no-brainer. As for elementary education, that was a kind of epiphany I had over the summer. I’ve always loved working with kids and after doing a good bit of substitute teaching, I realized that I wanted to teach elementary school.

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

Yes and no. My undergraduate majors kind of fell into place for me, but not because it was an easy, conscious choice. It was more like one thing led to another and I suddenly found two majors in my lap. My elementary education master’s, however, was a much more difficult choice because it’s something I put a lot of thought into. Deciding whether or not to go to grad school deserves its own post because it’s a truly huge decision, but for me, after weighing all the factors I decided it was the right choice for me.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

I think the most important thing is to major in something you’re interested in. If you’re studying something you hate, you probably won’t do very well in your classes and you’ll have a hard time getting yourself motivated. That being said, I know that not everybody is able to major in something where the post-grad career path isn’t so clear. It’s a privilege to be able to double major in English and GSWS. Even before I decided to get my master’s (which made my career path a little clearer), I knew that I could afford to do things like unpaid internships. Not everybody has that option and I totally understand that not everyone can afford to “do what they love.”

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

For English, I love to read so that’s obvious. I also love the wide variety of classes offered in the department so I can learn from the experiences of many different professors with many different areas of expertise. For GSWS, I love that I get to (have to, actually) take classes in all sorts of different departments. And for Education, I love that it’s setting me up for what has become my dream job!

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

I wouldn’t have dove into my major so quickly. I love both of my undergrad majors, but I’m not sure English was actually the best choice for me. I wish I would have taken more classes in more departments my freshman year. There are tons of departments (like Sociology or American Studies) that I have only found out about after I was already too deep into English that it wouldn’t have been worth it to switch. Yeah, so if I was doing it all over, I would have spent more time exploring.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

Take classes you’re interested in and your major will follow. For a large number of careers, your major doesn’t actually matter, so just do your best to study what you’re interested in!

Sarah is a senior and she is the executive editor on The Flat Hat. She is super cool and designed her own major in science communication (partially out of spite).

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider?

The way majors work at this school is really archaic in my opinion. They go to a lot of trouble to talk about interdisciplinary majors as this big new thing, when in reality there are very few majors that draw only from a single discipline (ex. Classics, Government, any of the languages, Art History). Because of this way of thinking about things, Environmental Science is considered a “secondary major” which is just BS (not bachelor of science, the other abbreviation) and students who want to study environmental science must double major. Because of this and some limitations (the amount of credits I already had and classes only being offered on occasional semesters) I decided to create my own major. Also I frankly wasn’t interested enough to do any kind of capstone experience in any one thing that the college offered, so designing my own major was pretty much the only option.

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

Picking a major was excruciating. I had turned down Northwestern’s journalism school but was still pretty sure I wanted to do journalism after college. Unfortunately the college doesn’t offer journalism or communications as an option here (*cough cough* archaic *cough*) so I was trying to find an area of study that I was interested enough in. I was hoping to be able to specialize in something that could inform my writing later but, after environmental science, there wasn’t much else left to choose from and trying to double major was becoming a huge area of stress for me (I was taking 16-17 credits each semester). Eventually there was a point where I just said “screw this, I’ll major in what I want,” and I combined a bunch of classes from Environmental Science, Film Studies, Creative Writing, Biology, etc. to create my major.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

Practicality in terms of “will I be able to make money on this?” Absolutely not. I have done so many things that make me attractive to the employers I want to work for, and only a few of those were related to my coursework. What matters is not that it says “Biology Major” on your diploma, but rather that you have all the important skills for the job you want on your resume. That being said, don’t major in Philosophy if you know you want to work in a Chem lab. Do what makes sense.

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

There are no classes that I don’t want to take. I take what I want to and change my major requirements if a certain class doesn’t work out.

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

Take prereq classes for any major you think you might be interested in as soon as possible. you’ll avoid having to play catch up. I personally also would have given self designing a major more serious thought at the beginning.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

“Picking” a major just means you turned in a form. You have some leeway to change your destiny after the fact so don’t let  “declaring a major” scare you too much. Also don’t lie to yourself about what you are interested in. Morning classes are already hard enough to wake up for. Its even harder when you don’t care about the class.

Read the full post here.

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