Making A Major Decision

 

When I was choosing a school I knew that I did not know what I wanted to major in, and so I took that into account when I chose Ithaca College. I was completely terrified of being undecided and not having a clear plan and so I wanted a school that had a strong support system to help me figure it all out. I was perhaps overly worried about having to figure this all out on my own, but IC has a ton of resources for undecided students(or Exploratory students, as they’re called here), and I want to share some of the tips I’ve learned in terms of choosing a major!

This might be mostly for my past self, but when I was entering college I definitely felt as though I was the only person who didn’t know what they wanted to do with their life, which is completely untrue. Not only do a third of college students change their major at least once, but from my own experience, even most people with majors they absolutely love are unsure about what exactly they want to do beyond college. So relax. You’re not behind schedule. You’re doing fine!

You will have to declare a major at some point though, so let’s get into the important stuff. The most important thing would be to know your school's resources. Whip out the stack of pamphlets you inevitably got handed during orientation and see if anything there is a resource that could help you on this specific journey. Or, even better, go talk to your advisor. They can point you in the direction of resources, put you in contact with professors in a field you’re interested in, and keep you on track to graduate. I was so nervous to meet my advisor, but once I started meeting him, he became such a huge resource for me, so I’d definitely advise reaching out sooner than later. Remember, this is why you have an advisor; no one expects you to have it all figured out just yet.

Be conscious of the classes that you are choosing! Take classes that interest you! If it is possible, try to take general education requirements in topics that might introduce you to a major that you might be interested in. That way even if you decide to go in a totally different direction your effort in that class can still count towards your graduation requirements as more than an elective credit. If you have an idea of a general area you are interested in, take classes in that area. If not, think about what your favorite classes, units, or activities in high school were, and find classes that relate to those, as that is a great starting point.

If you end up in a class that you absolutely love, set up a meeting with the professor and ask them about their career, and about what kind of careers/internships the students in that major tend to get. It is a good idea to get an idea of where that path might take you before starting down it. Joining a club in a related field is another way to get a better feel of what the field is actually like.

Two of the most helpful exercises that I did to help in choosing a major were going through major requirements and making four-year plans. You should be able to find the required courses for each major on your college’s website. I picked a couple of majors that I thought I might be interested in and printed out a list of each one’s course requirements.

Then I looked up each class and marked my level of interest in each, for example using a plus sign for interested, a squiggly line for indifferent, and a subtraction sign for uninterested. Even if the job that a major could lead to sounds cool if you don’t like most of the classes you have to take to get there, it is probably not the job for you. You have to love the journey as well. I also made some four-year plans with potential majors and minors to get an idea of what my years might look like. This might not help you pick a major as much as it might help you stay on track to graduate and think about the feasibility of degrees you are considering. There are some degrees that cannot be completed within the four years of a bachelor’s unless started very early so that is definitely something you have to keep in mind and that your advisor can help you with.

If you are working hard, taking classes and joining organizations that focus on passions and interests of yours, then you are on the right track! There is no one right way to do college. Just keep swimming.