1. What classes have I enjoyed? This is the best place to start when thinking about possible majors. Which courses have you taken where you genuinely enjoyed the subject material? Think about which classes that sparked an interest and consider taking another course in that area to see if it’s a good fit for you. Think back to high school if you need to.
3. What do I want to do after college? Is there something you are hoping to do after graduation, such as teach, help people, invent things, or produce creative products? Depending on your career plans, you may work backwards to choose a major. *Be careful, though: many students fall into a trap where they think a career in business requires a business major or a career in medicine requires a biology major. There are many roads to the same destination, so speak to a career counselor or academic adviser to consider ALL majors that may be relevant, not just the ones that sound like a job!
4. What do I want my life to look like? Some students don’t have a particular interest in one area, but they know they want to work outdoors, have summers off, have a flexible work schedule, or travel a lot. By thinking about the lifestyle you want, you can begin to identify and eliminate certain careers and get a better sense of what will ”fit” for you.
When I was growing up, my parents told me, “Find what you love and then figure out a way to get paid for it.” In other words: figure out what you’re excited about enough to do it every day, figure out what you’re good at, and where those things intersect. Then, and only then, do you move on to the specifics of how you pursue it. Don’t start with the “getting paid” part of the formula first – there are many paths to a healthy bank account, and NONE of them involve struggling in material that you can’t connect with.
Choosing a major can be frustrating, whether you’re the type to meticulously plan out every detail of your trip or someone who is happy to let serendipity guide you. In truth, the best prepared students are the ones who do some planning, thinking, and talking about their options but also remain open to unplanned, exciting possibilities.
Special thanks to Sara Spear (GSE'12) and Molly Rucki (GSE'14) for their good ideas and help with this post!