How to Choose Your Major

Even before I started McGill, I knew I was going to major in Economics. After my first semester at McGill, I wanted to be an Anthropology major. Three weeks later, I had no idea what I wanted to do. After a year and a half of searching, I finally landed on one that I love.

This is a common concern I hear not just with freshmen at McGill, but with second and even third years. When I first started, I was just as clueless as everyone else. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduation, and I always thought that my major had to correspond directly with my career prospects, which added stress and confusion to an already difficult choice. 

Often times, nobody knows what exactly they want, and people think that they have to figure out what they want to pursue before deciding on their major. However, from my experience, I’ve realized that spending your time and energy figuring out what your passion is, is neither productive nor effective. Instead, taking a leap towards something is the best way to figure out what you are passionate about. I see a lot of people with the mentality that we have to find our passion and strive towards it- but from my experience, passion isn't something that you're born with or something that just comes out of nowhere- you create passion throughout your journey.

I recently read a book called “The Defining Decade”, where the author emphasizes the importance of our 20s and how we should make the most out of it. In it, she describes the experience of a man in his 20s, who has no idea what career he wants to pursue. He explains that he feels like he is just swimming aimlessly in the middle of the ocean. He can’t see which direction will lead him to land, so all he can do is just tread water. The author then points out, how will he ever find land by just treading water, worrying about which direction to go to? He would be much better off swimming towards something, in any direction, then to just stay still. If he ends up in the wrong direction, then at least he is one step closer to figuring out what he wants to do. He might even realize that the “wrong” direction is actually the right one for him.

This, I think, is what a lot of us are going through. Because we spend a lot of our time worrying about what to study and what to do after graduation, we often forget that our time is precious, and worrying will not get us far. Even if you end up not liking a certain major, at least now you have a better understanding of what you like and don’t like.

Of course, when deciding my major, I based my decision on some thought and research; it was not just impulsive or random. After gauging what kind of classes I seemed to enjoy, I hesitantly picked my current major, Industrial Relations. I was skeptical about my decision at first because I had zero knowledge or interest in unions or employer-employee relations. But I started my major promising myself that I would give this a serious and fair chance. This made me want to try harder in my classes, and actually pay attention to what my classes had to offer. As a result, my grades started going up and my interest grew; then naturally, I started to gain a passion for it. I can now say that this is an area of study that I want to pursue even after graduation.

I realize I am one of the very lucky ones who ended up with a major they love, but I started off clueless and confused like many others. What helped me, was first, to pick classes that I thought might actually interest me (not just taking all bird courses as I did in my first year). Then based off of that, make a reasonable decision through process of elimination. If you have no interest in any of the majors, it might be helpful to think about what skills you want to learn instead. I personally chose my major knowing that I wanted to be better at critical thinking and understanding abstract concepts, which drew me to my major because it had a Sociology aspect to it. If you are still feeling defeated, remember that your major does not define your career (we all know someone who is now thriving in a career that had nothing to do with their major). University can be a daunting journey, and your major will impact which direction that journey will go. However, it's okay to not love your major or be unsure about what you want to study, because your university experience is so much more than just what you study - meeting different kinds of people, exploring a new city, learning to live away from your parents, or joining different clubs, all shape your university experience and future. 


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