How to Find the Perfect Major For You

By Rebecca Benitez

 

By age 17-going-on-18  you are faced with the same question you were asked as a child: “what do you want to do when you grow up?” However, not with the same sweet, cutesy tone. You are suddenly pressured to grow up and choose who and what you want to be, and sometimes this leaves you with no room for choice.

When this question is forced on youth who had no opportunities to explore pathways other than the basic subjects taught in high school, the transition to adulthood is not the smooth dream slide we fantasized about. Rather, it’s a whole new playground of chaos made for the big kids: full of loopy jungle gyms, ladders that go on forever and slides that are too bumpy, too fast and start abruptly without you knowing. All of this looks like too much and yet, the other kids look just fine.

But you don’t have to be afraid to try and prove yourself. There are many different ways to start your way into college, or if you already are in it, restarting into another major. By following some of these tips, taking that apprehensive first step doesn’t have to be so scary.

Pursue your passion, not your interests

For some of you, this is something already found. If you have always been passionate about a certain subject area, then congratulations, you have taken your first step! However, this is not to be confused with finding what interests you. Passion keeps you on your toes: it’s a consistent devotion, almost an obsession for you to keep gaining as much knowledge as you can about what it is that you love. But interests are smaller sparks that lighten your mood from time to time, often just to satisfy a need for fun or knowledge.

My true passion has been in writing since I was a child, either as a form of poetry, script, journaling and even essay writing (depending on the topic). Since writing is in our identity and our cultures, I wanted to learn more about human nature and how we have create our own worlds through stories. Even though it was not a part of my parents vision, I chose to follow my passion and am currently pursuing an English degree.

For some, discovering your passion is no easy feat. Of course, you could discover it through college thanks to the many opportunities given. However, if you don’t want to force yourself right into it, it is perfectly fine to take some time off. Everyone’s growth is influenced in many different ways, and sometimes this means taking the road less traveled.

Don’t rush, take time off if you need to

Going to experience the uni life with your friends can sound appealing in the beginning, however choosing your university and the major that will be the starting base for your future should not be taken lightly. Personally, I was jealous that all my friends got to go ahead without me, but I found myself stuck at the starting line, hesitant to dive in right after high school.

I took a year off and did a semester at another high school, where I completed a dual credit at George Brown College and tried a psychology course, as well as a co-op program that allowed me to volunteer in a kindergarten classroom. Through research on my own time I got a valuable glimpse into other careers. Plus, by being able to work I was able to save money for school. 

Read more: What I Wish I Knew Before I Chose My University Major

Linda Lau, a third-year languages and intercultural relations student, also took a gap year to focus on her mental wellbeing. She stressed that a gap year gave her enough time to discover a new part of herself.

“Originally, I was thinking about taking psychology or English as a major,” she said, “but after all the things I experienced outside of campus I realized that I’m very culture sensitive, aware and more open minded to different traditions compared to other friends. That’s how I decided to study languages and cultures.”

When I further asked her to give advice to those considering a gap year, she emphasized the value of continuing education, even if you are not in school.

“Don’t stop learning just because you are taking a gap year,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you learn in that year, or how, but you should never take knowledge for granted.”

Know how to do your research

When it comes to finding your major, there are a wide variety of ways to get research done. Open houses or university fairs are a perfect, free opportunity to find out what you can by speaking to actual representatives and professors who were once students themselves. Speaking to people at the school with real experience is a valuable part of familiarizing yourself with your options. People are almost like walking encyclopedias, full of different knowledge gained from different experiences, so don’t be afraid to ask away!

Research could also be as simple as asking your friends or the people around you. Even if they have experience in a major you are not considering, it’s always a good idea to ask why they chose it, how their coursework is and how they intend to incorporate it into their future.

Tina Giang, a junior currently studying illustration at OCAD University, stressed creativity in research. She was able to gain insight into the field by volunteering at an art store that also held annual gallery events.

“Be creative! School is costly, so it’s important to take your time with decisions,” she said. “Explore through different outlets, such as volunteering or work. Shadow and learn from others, but also don’t let them influence you because ultimately it’s your decision in the end.”

Read more: Tackling Imposter Syndrome in University

Consider the jobs

While the income of popular fields like accounting, law, or engineering sound promising, don’t let it deter you from your passion in other fields. I have heard many people claim that choosing a major such as liberal arts or humanities is too risky. In the end, so is every single other major out there.

It’s what you make of your major and how you integrate it with your experience that you can land you your dream job. Getting the opinion of my professors or teaching assistants made me realize how broad my major really is and how easily the skills of analytical writing, thinking and research can apply to a variety of careers other than teaching.

It’s definitely worth exploring the different directions your degree can take you in. Universities often offer career counseling services to aid with this and usually provide valuable, maybe even life changing advice to get you started.

Don’t be afraid of change

When you want to change your major but are already halfway through the one you are currently doing, this pressure can definitely build up within any individual. When forced to choose, students are likely to change majors multiple times, or continue with a major to follow other’s expectations, or to pursue financial security by sacrificing happiness.

Changing your major does not mean that you wasted time. Each experience in post secondary is always a learning experience that builds on your character. They might not always guarantee success, however, if you are in a situation where you find another major calling your name, it’s already guaranteed that you are on the right track.

Transitioning into the larger playground that is university already sounds intimidating enough. At times it does not go the way you want to and you will find yourself at a standstill, waiting to join everyone else and make a move. But you can take it on with confidence and experience university life to your fullest if you keep these tips in mind. Soon enough you’ll be out there with the big kids, bravely taking on challenge after challenge.