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Choosing a College Major



Whether you plan to attend a junior college, state college, or a university, you will need to choose a college major. Choosing a major in college is an important decision. Keep reading to learn what to consider when choosing a major.

Some students will enter college having known “forever” exactly what they want to do in their future career. Recognized talents and students’ previous experiences"such as specialized courses in the arts or technology, AP courses, or extracurricular activities"may have already have given them an opportunity to consider how they want to spend their working life. Other teens will still be in the stage of discovery, either of a main field or of a specialty within it.

Often a student’s thoughts about possible majors will have shaped the choice of colleges to apply to. Students who have their future already marked out will have applied to schools that support their particular dreams, while students who are still exploring may choose to apply to schools that have solid and broad coverage in fields of possible interest. This way, virtually any choice the student makes can be supported without having to transfer.

If You Know What You Want

Even if you’ve wanted to be a restaurateur, a detective, or a teacher since you were 3, schools often have a process whereby majors are declared sometime during the second year of college. Often, students list a possible major, but the official filing, which is called “declaring a major,” doesn’t happen until later. For some colleges, at least, this is because the faculty consider it important that the student have the opportunity to explore. Nevertheless, if you already know what you want, your college counselor can help you plan with your goals in mind.

An exception may be specific pre-professional programs such as pre-med and pre-law. Some careers have a particular track that requires rigorous and specific preparation, with most students beginning as soon as they set foot in the college door.

If You’re Still Considering

A student who answers “undecided” when asked about possible majors is not alone. Not everyone has a set plan when leaving high school. Often, college distribution requirements can give students an opportunity to explore new areas. Taking the distribution requirements early can also leave more time to focus when a student reaches the upper level courses in his or her major.

If professors and the college counselor are made aware that the student is undecided, they can help provide experiences that help a student gain some perspective. They may also be able to reflect to the student what they see as possible matches for him or her, and/or mentor a student in other ways, as well.

Double Major

An important option that is standard among colleges is the double major. In this case, students complete all the requirements from two different majors. This choice may require an extra year of residence, or some courses may be picked up during summer sessions.

Creating/Designing a Major

Many schools offer students the opportunity to design an individualized major. In a typical case, the student, with the assistance of a faculty sponsor, puts together a program drawing on courses from whatever areas of the college are appropriate, possibly combined with tutorial courses and/or internships. These majors are often interdisciplinary and involve a written proposal and departmental approval.

Changing Your Mind

Sometimes the shoe that feels fine in the shoe store doesn’t feel so good after walking a few miles in it, and this can happen with a college major. Students need to know that they’re allowed to change their minds.

They also need to know that - depending on the point they’re at in their college program and how close or unrelated their new field is - they may be adding courses (and courses = time + $) to what they need to accomplish in order to be awarded a diploma. Also, if they have any aid that is linked to their original department choice, a change could affect it. Nevertheless, there is sometimes good reason to stop and rethink, and this is an area that the student’s college counselor is trained in and ready to help with.

Written By Mary Elizabeth

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