Choosing a major can be stressful. It’s a huge decision that will have an impact on the rest of your college career and life. So it's no surprise that so many people wonder how to choose a major that they'll enjoy and will be the right choice for their future.
At Brainscape, we know how much thought and stress goes into preparing, because we've both been there ourselves, and because our digital flashcards have helped millions of our own users ace exams to get into the right schools with the right programs suited for them.
[See also: 22 tips every college student should know AND, when the time comes to apply for financial student aid: How to apply for FAFSA student aid]
With all the pressure and tuition costs at all-time highs, many people are even beginning to question whether or not a college education is even worth the investment of time and money in the first place. And get this—only 24 percent of undergrads graduate in four years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That just translates to more debt and time.
So, how do you go about deciding what you want to do for the next 40 years? Here are 5 tips for how to choose a major in college:
1. Take an inventory of your natural aptitudes
Most people have two to three natural aptitudes that really drive their potential career success. For example, did you know skills such as hand-eye coordination and pattern memory could help determine your college major? People who have high sequential reasoning skills usually find writing and communicating in a clear and direct manner an easy task. Thus, a degree in communications would likely be a fit for someone with high sequential reasoning skills.
2. Ask yourself what you’re most interested in
Writing down your interests also helps when choosing a major. Just because you’ve always been a math whiz doesn’t necessarily mean you would enjoy a job in accounting if you don’t like being idle for long periods of time. By knowing your interests and exploring majors related to those interests, whether they be artistic, investigative, social, or otherwise, you are setting yourself up for an enjoyable career path.
For more, check out our advice on how to choose a career path that fits with your natural aptitudes and interests.
3. Consider how you work best and recharge
How do you unwind? After a long week of school, do you like to go out with a big group of friends or settle in with a book and cup of hot tea? Maybe you’re a combination of the two.
Knowing whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or blended energizer will also help narrow down your choices when it comes to choosing a major. Teaching elementary school would most likely wear on introverts after a while, as they find it hard to be around large groups of people with no breaks for extended periods of time. Likewise, working alone for extended periods of time is difficult for extroverts, who recharge by being social.
4. Explore internships, externships, and job shadowing
A great way to really determine what you “want to be when you grow up” is to spend a day in the life of someone in the field you are considering. Visit your college’s career center to learn which local companies and organizations your school partners with in career exploration.
Interning and externing are great ways to make connections and figure out what suits your personality and work style in the real world. You may find you love your potential career and then again, you may hate it, but you never know until you try! Wayup is a great online resource for finding internships, and here are ten other sites that are great for finding internships.
5. Do it FOR YOU
Our final tidbit of advice is to remember that this is your life and your career, and while family / cultural expectations are a very real and serious pressure many people feel, ultimately, you're the one who has to get up every morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and spend the next 8-10 hours of your day working in the field you studied for in college.
So, do what excites you. Devote your life and your career to the things that quicken your pulse and make you curious. If you do that, one way or another, you will be a tremendous success!
In closing, heed this advice and keep in mind this Richard Yates quote:
If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail …. It takes back bone to lead the life you want.
[And if you're heading to college or already there, be sure to check out Brainscape's great flashcards for college students, to help you tackle your study workload and learn twice as fast.]