It’s college acceptance time and as you the acceptance letters come rolling in, you are probably extremely excited thinking about what the next few months hold for you – prom (if you haven’t already had yours), AP exams, finals and GRADUATION! Next thing you know, you’ll be on campus for orientation and looking at your packing list for fall.
More than likely, you indicated a major on your college application. It may be something you’ve known since you were five or it could be a more recent interest that you decided to pursue. However, if you have not yet chosen a major or you’re not sure if you really want the one you choose, it’s okay. Not everyone will agree with me, but as far as I’m concerned, the major you choose isn’t always a huge factor in your post-graduate and career plans.
How can you say that, you ask? Easily. Some career options are based on certain majors, but others are based on coursework and that coursework can sometimes be navigated regardless of major. For instance, at some schools, pre-med is not a major, it’s a curricular track. Anyone can follow the pre-medical curriculum whether they are a science major or not. The curriculum is mostly science, so the fastest time to degree is when someone majors in STEM, but I’ve known English majors on the pre-med track. What mattered most is how that student intended to apply that major to the practice of medicine.
So as you declare a college major, think about the thing you want to do. The thing that you enjoy. The thing that you would do all day every day if allowed to. Something related to whatever that is may be your best bet for a major. For instance, while working as associate director of an academic support program for STEM majors, I was asked to write a letter by one of my students. As always, I asked for her resume, including activities, and a whatever version of a personal statement she had at the time. Although she was a science major on the pre-med track, the majority of her activities were centered around dance. She LOVED dance. She was in a student dance club, taught classes to younger children, the works. It was clear that she was more interested in being a dance than being a physician. But being a doctor is the thing she claimed early in life and was determined to stick with it. However, she wasn’t really interested or excited about the science that is required for medical school. Her transcript made that clear. What was also clear was her affinity for dance. Wouldn’t you know it, medical school wasn’t in the cards for her, but dancing for an NBA team was.
Now, I’m not saying choose a major at all. What I am saying is that choosing a major – and a life path – as a high school senior isn’t set in stone. Choose one now, but be open to change. And as you choose, keep a few things in mind. Declare a major based on a particular career path, a subject you enjoy, or an interest you want to follow. Do NOT choose it based on the idea of money, status, or glamour. There will be constant debate surrounding “safe” or “reliable” career paths, but I advise against that, as well.
No one wants to waste time or money frequently changing majors, but you don’t want to waste time or money sticking with something that isn’t a good fit either. Times have changed, along with the path to retirement. People in their 20s and 30s change job every three (3) years or so. Every THREE years. Many people also have 2-3 career changes by the time they retire. You can always learn new skills when you swerve (as Michelle Obama calls it). What’s important is that you know how to adapt and you graduate from college with an understanding basic content – that’s the breadth of college – and are able to learn and grow in different situations/environments.
That’s not to say take it lightly. Just don’t take it entirely too seriously. There may be a major at your university of choice that works for you. However, there are schools and departments that allow you to craft your own major by determining a set of coures that work well for your future interests. The beauty of this is that you can create your own individualized course of study. The tricky part ist hat you cn create your own individualized course of study. Should you enjoy it for four years, great. Should you not, it may be slightly more difficult to change majors. In most situations, though, you can find something that works.
You do that by speaking with your guidance counselor before graduation. Talk to people during freshman orientation and when you arrive on campus, meet with your academic advisor as soon as possible. This is particularly important if you have any uncertainty bout the major you chose. Your academic advisor can also help you do things like combine your major with a particular minor or concentration. If that feels too invested for you, you can also choose electives that allow you to pursue your interests within the boundaries of your major course of study.
Hopefully this post doesn’t have you questioning your major. It was intended to offer a bit of guidance for those who are uncertain. The point of it all is that your professional future is not only about the major you choose; it’s also about what you choose to do with the education you receive.