How to Choose a Major

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Colleges of Distinction »

Choosing a major can be an exciting yet intimidating process. You might feel as if you have to know exactly what you want to study before you start college, but it’s actually fine—and common!—if you don’t. Important decisions like this take time, and everyone discovers their calling at different periods of their life. To give you a headstart, here are a few things to help you decide on your major. And remember, you can always change it later on down the road. 

Enroll into College as Undeclared

Enrolling in college with an undeclared major can be both exciting and daunting. It is a path that allows you to explore various academic disciplines, discover your interests, and make a more informed decision about your future career goals. 

The first thing to consider about choosing to enter college without a declared major is that it provides an opportunity for self-discovery. It allows you to take a wide range of introductory courses across various fields, exposing you to new subjects and potential areas of interest. This exploration can be invaluable in helping you uncover your true passions and strengths.

Many students are afraid to enter undeclared, but there are many benefits to it. If you are in a major you’re not confident about, you may regret scheduling courses within a strict degree plan if you end up switching majors. Utilize the freedom you have and take courses related to the topics you’re interested in.

Kristine Shay, Assistant Vice President for Admissions at William Peace University, said she changed her major three times. 

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“I have been working in college admissions for 33 years, and one statistic has been consistent all these years: college students change their majors 2-3 times during their studies. After all, what 17 year old really knows what they want to study or what career they want to pursue when they haven’t been exposed to the world or to coursework outside core high school classes?”

Shay and her team always encourage students—even those who think they know what they want to study—to enroll as an undeclared student. Her motto: explore, enjoy, find your way. 

“That way they can learn about different careers while still meeting graduation requirements. Plus, if a student chooses a specific major, then changes course, they may lose credits with that change. By entering undeclared, you have less chance for wasted credits.”  

Register for Classes 

You’ll have plenty of classes to keep you occupied as you decide on a major. Keep the following in mind as you get ready for your first year: 

Consider General Education Requirements: 

While you may be undecided about your major, most colleges have general education requirements that all students must fulfill. These typically include courses in areas such as humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and mathematics. Look for introductory-level courses in these areas that interest you and fulfill these requirements.

Start with Introductory Courses: 

As an undecided major, it’s a good idea to begin with introductory-level courses in various disciplines. This will allow you to explore different subjects and help you make more informed decisions about potential majors. Consider taking a mix of courses that align with your interests or that fulfill general education requirements.

Keep an Open Mind:

Be open to trying new subjects and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. College is a time for exploration, and you may discover unexpected interests along the way.

If you are still unsure about which major to choose, you may have the option to apply to and declare all your potential majors, after which you can drop or stick to whatever you choose. Maybe you’ll realize that you have a strong passion for multiple areas of study. In that case, you can choose to double major or add on one topic as a minor!

Look Back at Classes You Enjoyed In High School

Were there any classes that stood out to you? Any extracurriculars you loved? These experiences may hint to you where your passions lie. If you loved the graphic design & illustration courses you took in high school, you might consider taking courses in advertising.

Make sure you can see yourself growing your strengths and enjoying what you’re learning, because that is how you will thrive.

Talk Frequently with Your Advisor

If you’re unsure of what to do or what classes to take, the first person you should turn to is your advisor. We recommend speaking to your advisor at least at the beginning and end of each semester. These meetings can help you track whether you’re eligible to transfer disciplines within your school, get advice on which courses you should take, or answer any questions or concerns you may have about your decision. Your advisor is there to help you make the most out of your college career and keep you on the path to success, so don’t hesitate to contact them.

Research the Career Possibilities for the Major

What typical job positions do graduates from that major pursue? What is the purpose and daily tasks such positions hold? These answers may help you determine how passionate you are about your fields of interest.

Do you see yourself enjoying day-to-day life in a certain career? Is the salary what you desire? What can you bring to the table once you’re an employee? Of course, you may feel hesitant with your answers at first because you’re still learning about the major, but keep these questions in mind as you decide. You may find that these questions can open or close doors to majors you’ve considered.

Talk to Other Students

There are other students who have gone through what you’re experiencing. Try talking to them as well as other students who are juggling their options. Speak with students in the majors you’re considering, and get their insights. These conversations may help you find a fresh perspective as well as reassurance and support. 

Decide How the Major Aligns with You

Does the field relate to your core beliefs? If you’re an activist who wants to protect the environment, you’re most likely not going to want to work for an oil and gas company. The more that you can personally relate to a major in terms of passion, interest, skills, and values, the more you will find yourself enjoying your career. 

Figure Out What YOU Want

Ultimately, you’re the person who knows you the best. Take everyone’s advice into consideration, but don’t let anyone control your final decision. Your family and friends want what they believe is best for you, but it’s important that you make the decision that you know is right for your future.

Not knowing what your major will be can give you an uneasy feeling, but it’s a part of life not to know what every day in the future will be like. In a sense, that can make things even more exciting. Take it one step at a time, and you will find yourself naturally going towards the right path. Good luck!