How to Choose a Major: Advice from Students Who've Been There

Choosing bedding for your college dorm or apartment is fun. When it comes to figuring out how to choose a major, those other seemingly difficult choices take a back seat. Finding a major that fits with your varied interests may seem daunting. In fact, there may be other areas of study that you have yet to discover and explore. Once you have chosen your major, who’s to say that you will stick with that major throughout your time at your school?

The anxieties of choosing a major are common among college students. Even if it seems like you’re the only one experiencing an overwhelming sense of making your first decision the right and only one. We reached out to college girls who have been in your shoes, factoring in not only want they want to do presently, but for the future when deciding a major. They give key advice on how to begin the search, and where they turned to in their life for advice. A few have also given advice based on the experiences they had of changing their major a few times.

Do Your Research

One of the most important things you can do when choosing a major is to do your research. Every school has extensive resources online that will help you in your search. That requires a lot of work on your end and really getting yourself deep into courses that are offered. “Take a Saturday, sit down at your computer, and go through every. Single. Major. your school offers,” Anna Waldzinska, junior communications major at the University of Pennsylvania, said. “Look at their required courses and see if they’re things that individually peak your interests.”

Look at Potential Career Opportunities

Go beyond researching what is offered in your major. Be sure to see where this type of degree can drive you career-wise. “If you’re curious about future careers, visit employer sites, LinkedIn, or search blogs about the intern/job experiences of others,” Shreya Khadka, a senior studying marketing with digital marketing and analytics at the University of Connecticut, said. Khadka stressed that it was important to ask for help when needed. “We must take the initiative,” she said. Reach out and connect to those who are working in the field that you are interested in. They’ve likely been in a similar situation when they were going through college. Monique Mai, an allied health science major and class of 2017 alumna from the University of Connecticut, went to her local library to seek out help. “I am a daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and couldn’t go to my parents for advice as they didn’t have the opportunity to go to school in America,” Mai said.

Pick Your Passion

College is a time of self-growth and exploration. If that requires changing your major once, twice, or a few times, that will not set you back but only help drive you towards what you want to do. You’re a part of College Fashionista, and our community has a variety of interests much like you do. “I am a person with many different passions, and consequently, it leads me to be a very indecisive person,” Aubrey Tang, senior materials science and engineering major at the University of Connecticut, said. Tang mentioned that the major does not lead on to other topics she is passionate about, such as cultural identity and injustices.

Khadka suggested taking an accredited personality test as a way to see what passions will help you in choosing your major. “You change a lot as an individual when coming to college. So what better way to know yourself than to identify your passions, strengths, weaknesses, and motivations?” Khadka said. She mentioned 16 Personalities as a place to start. “I went through majors like people go through hairstyles,” Waldzinska said. She tested out a variety of courses during the year and online that lead her to communications, which said said she loved. Mai said she had considered changing majors throughout her undergrad years and did. She made the switch from biomedical engineering (BME) to allied health sciences the spring semester of her second year at university. “I knew that I wanted to be in the field of medicine, but BME was not the right major for me to be able to pursue that career path in the way that I wanted to,” Mai said.

The skills that are learned in your major are flexible and can translate into many areas. “Majors are incredibly interdisciplinary nowadays,” Waldzinska said. If you can make a case as to why you’re perfect for a job and show what skills you’ve developed that are relevant (inside and outside the classroom), that’s a skill more useful than any single course you take.”

Consider Your Happiness

Above all, when you’re figuring out how to choose your major, it’s important to think about if it will make you happy. Graduating a year later in pursuit of your goals if needed will ultimately help you. “There will be setbacks and negative criticism, but you must believe in the decision and how it is right for you,” Mai said. “Students often try to settle for work and play in majors by choosing a major that they consider ‘fun’ and another major that they are seriously pursuing,” Waldzinska said. “The major you consider ‘fun’ should be what you think about when looking for a career, because you should really love your career.”

Tang uses a technique she learned in a class to help her make hard decisions. “Whenever I’m faced with a challenge or I am questioning a decision that I made, I use the Five Whys. This is actually a failure analysis technique used in materials science and the goal of this technique is to find the root cause. For example, “I’m considering changing my major,” “Why?” “I don’t like it,” “Why?” “I never do well on exams,” “Why?” “I never study,” “Why?” “It’s so boring”, “Why?” “I’m not interested in anything I’m learning,” she said. Tang mentioned that some students are expected to choose a major based on what their families want them to pursue. “Choose a major that is going to make you happy, and live life on your own terms.”

How did you decide your major? Was it a difficult decision? Sound off below!

Opening image by Victoria.