When you first start college the most difficult decision that all students (you aren’t the only one who struggles with this) are faced with is picking a major. With so many options and the variety of careers majors could lead to after graduation, this task may seem impossible but, unfortunately, it is a choice that has to be made at some point.
There are a few things that you should keep in mind when choosing a major.
What do you like?
College is supposed to be fun so don’t be afraid to take classes you like. Explore subjects that seem interesting to you. The best way to find out if you like a subject is to take an intro or lower division class in it. There isn’t a penalty to trying something different, so don’t hold back! You don’t want to spend every night of your college career studying something you aren’t even remotely interested in. Sure, you will most likely have a few classes that you don’t enjoy or professors that you don’t connect with but, if you also have classes that you love the not so great ones won’t seem as bad.
What are your strengths?
You may take a class that you though you would like only to find out that you don’t think in that way or that calculating things is not something you are good at. The subject may be fun and if you struggle with every class, it won’t be fun for long. Take a minute and ask yourself what are you good at. If you aren’t sure or need a little guidance go into your career services office and ask about assessments. There are a variety of assessments that you can take for a discounted fee through the career office. At UMD, we offer three assessments, the Myers-Briggs, StrengthsQuest, and the Strong Interest Inventory. Each one gives you a different insight into yourself so take one or take all of them; it never hurts to have too much information. You will meet with a counselor for an interpretation to help you find patterns and make sense of your assessment(s) results.
What do you want to do after you graduate?
Yes, you should think about what you might like to do after you graduate simply because there are certain professions (teacher, doctor, lawyer, dentist) that you need to have a specific degree for or certain classes that you have to take in order to get into a professional or graduate program. At the same time, if you decide that you want to go into a profession like teaching you can always go back to school for a short time to complete a post-bachelors degree or complete the courses you need to and then enter that profession or graduate/professional school. Your major doesn’t determine what jobs you can get after you graduate. If you don’t believe me take a look at the Graduate Follow-up Report that we compile every year and look at what recent grads are doing. Some people stay in their field and plenty of them go on to do other things. For most jobs what matters is that you have the skills to do a good job. They can train you on the specific task you will be doing.
Bottom line, it’s not too late to switch your major. Sure, if you wait too long you may end up staying for a couple extra semesters, and that’s okay. You want to look back at your college career and remember how much fun you had in your classes. You don’t want to look back and remember only endless hours studying something that you hated or being stressed out because you didn’t understand what was going on. College is about learning and finding a career, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful and difficult experience if you don’t want it to be. Major in something you like and build your skills in the areas that employers look for through extracurricular and leadership activities. Have fun in college and don’t be afraid to do something that you enjoy!