Before You Decide on a College Major

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Choosing a college major is something that requires much thought and consideration but, in reality, it is just the first step toward developing a foundation that you will continue to build on for the rest of your life. Although some college students know exactly what they want to major in when they enter college, the majority of students are not even close to choosing a major when entering college. The fact is that a major is only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes time to decide on a career after college.

What Are You Into?

Students may decide on a major based on a personal interest in a specific discipline or by doing well in specific courses in high school. Other students may already know that they have an interest in medicine, law, business, journalism, the arts (art/music/theater), psychology, government, etc. Oftentimes students will combine their interests and will choose to do a double major or major in one concentration and minor in another to enable them to pursue their interests in both subjects.

Explore Your Options

College students have an enormous opportunity to gain a wide range of experiences during their college years. Internships, volunteer, college jobs, and co-curricular activities often take up much of a college student's time. It's important to get a wide range of experiences if you are not sure what you want to do after college. Gaining a wide range of experiences will help you develop new knowledge and skills and will expose you to a variety of options while also making you eligible for a wide range of jobs.

The truth is that college prepares students to be critical thinkers and provides a foundation for students to create a worldview based on learning from a variety of disciplines. It is not so much what you study but the critical thinking and problem-solving skills you learn in college that makes the difference between career options for a college graduate and someone who enters the job market right after high school. A college major will prepare you to take those critical thinking skills along with communication, presentation, organization, and writing skills that are all a part of college life to pursue a career that meets your interests and specifications. These skills learned in college prepare students for success in a broad range of career options after graduation.

"People think that a major chooses a career, but that's just not the case," says Rosanne Lurie, a career counselor who has worked both at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco. "Your interests and abilities lead to the decision of a major and a career after that, but there isn’t always a direct relation between the two. A major doesn't predetermine what you end up doing."

Land an Internship

In a recent survey taken by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), it was reported that internship programs are now ranked as the number one source for finding entry-level employees—they were previously ranked seventh. Cooperative education programs moved from number 12 on the list a few years ago to the number two spot. Consequently, developing those key transferable skills while gaining valuable experience through internships or other forms of experiential education is ultimately more important in preparing for a future career than picking the right major.