How to choose a major

September 27, 2022

Arnold Bernard Library at sunrise on the Mount Carmel Campus.

Choosing a major for college is an exciting journey, yet it’s also daunting for some. With so many programs to choose from – and new ones popping up every day – how can you be sure which major is right for you? Some people have it all figured out while others don’t – and that’s okay! Take your time to think and check out these strategies to help you choose.

Ask yourself what your priorities are

This is the first thing to consider and will help guide you through your decision-making process. Start thinking about which factor is most important to you and your career goals: interest level, ability, and even economic advantage. Ask yourself if your biggest priority is doing something you’re truly passionate about. Or is doing something you’re really good at most important? Or is pursuing a career based on the highest salary opportunity and job demand what appeals to you? All three of these factors are important to consider when choosing your major. Once you’ve thought about them, you can dive deeper into each question.

Think about your passions and interests

What do you love to do? Is there a career opportunity in it? If not, can you create one? When you take a step back to look at your passions and interests, think of those questions. Many experts say that students who pursue a major they’re passionate about are more engaged with their studies and their overall college experience. You perform better in your courses and become more involved when you focus on your interests. There are many opportunities to join student organizations related to your major and befriend classmates within your area of study – both of which are opportunities to make lasting connections.

Figure out your abilities

Just like when thinking about your passions and interests, ask yourself what you’re great at. Is there a career opportunity in it? If not, can you create one? When doing something you’re good at, your confidence is high and you will thrive in that area. And you don’t have to follow the traditional path of “I’m good with calculations, so I should be an accountant.” There are so many other opportunities out there that require expertise in numbers such as data science, engineering or teaching. Even careers within the government require mathematical skills. 

Data analysts and scientists take their strength in numbers and make them digestible and visible so they may be easily understood by those of us who don’t grasp facts and figures so quickly. Engineers across different specialties leverage their skills with calculations to design, create and build everything from infrastructure to architecture and software. Political candidates rely heavily on individuals who can measure the pulse of the public through surveying and quantifying opinions. Budgeting is also a huge part of any career. 

Consider the type of career you’d like

Do you want to work with people? Do you prefer getting in the zone at your desk? Do you like the spontaneity of varying shifts? Do you want a guaranteed economic advantage? These questions will help you figure out what type of career you’d like to pursue. 

Consider what’s most important. If you value economic advantage with a high salary, a STEM career may be for you. If you want to work with people to improve their lives, explore health science or teaching opportunities. 

Careers in engineering, sciences and finance lead to the highest earning potential, while human services, education and the arts have lower earnings but more human impact. Always keep your quality of life in mind. Is a high salary in a fast-paced field you’re not crazy about worth it? Or will you be more fulfilled knowing the value of your impact on others?

Talk to people

Still a little unsure? Talk to people! Ask the people around you what they do and what they majored in. Friends, family, neighbors – anyone can give you insight into their day-to-day work life. Ask to shadow them at their jobs or reach out to local businesses to see if they’ll host you for a day. You’ll be able to talk to people in a variety of positions to get an idea of how they get the most out of their careers. 

Your school counselor is another great resource to talk to about college majors. They’ve had conversations with hundreds, potentially thousands, of other students in your same position of searching for an answer on what to major in. They have a deep knowledge of what programs are around and may even suggest a major that you hadn’t heard of or considered. 

College visits also provide a wealth of information. You have the opportunity to talk to admission advisors, department representatives and professors about different career paths and programs to explore. There are also current college students who attend these events whom you can talk to about their experiences and career goals. 

Reduce the pressure on yourself

Most importantly, give yourself time. You don’t have to have it all figured out when you go to college. It’s okay to be undecided – many schools don’t require you to declare a major until the end of your second year. Consider enrolling at a school that offers a variety of majors and programs to explore different areas of study. Make the most out of your general education courses by taking them in a variety of disciplines – from science and engineering to arts and humanities. 

Remember that majors can be changed as your interests expand and you discover new passions. Talk to your classmates, professors and advisors to find the major for you.

We've sorted each of our undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs into 16 unique Areas of Interest. Explore these categories to discover which programs and delivery methods best align with your educational and career goals.

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