What to consider when choosing a major

Lifestyle Reporter

With hundreds of majors to choose from, it can often be challenging for students to pick one area to focus on.

Choosing a major is a major commitment, but the decision doesn’t have to be stressful. The following are five tips to help students successfully declare their major. 

1. Know yourself

Kate Robbins, career counselor, said the first step students should take when they aren’t sure what they want to study is learning more about themselves and their interests.

Robbins said she encourages students to tell their stories when they come to her office for advice on selecting a major.

“I may ask questions like, ‘When you were young, what did you enjoy doing most?’” Robbins said. “I encourage students to just kind of begin thinking about activities and experiences they have really enjoyed.”

Thadra Vrubel, P.A.C.E. Counselor, said students should determine what they are looking for in a future career and use that to their advantage.

“I often describe that exploring careers is a lot like dating,” Vrubel said. “Students should ask themselves what it is about their area of interest that makes it appealing.”

2. Explore your options

College students will change their major an average of three times during their stint at a university, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Robbins said it is common for students to change their majors at least once during college as they continue to grow.

“Think about how much people change between the ages of 18 and 23,” Robbins said. “It is just such a time of growth that allows students to expand their horizons. I think it is very uncommon that a person doesn’t change their major ever.”

Amy Cross, business administration graduate student, said she changed her undergraduate major three times before finally settling on business.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted,” Cross said. “I just had to start looking at other things like income and stability farther down the road. I wasn’t thinking about that when I was an incoming freshman.”

3. Don’t feel pressured

Vrubel said she has talked to many students who have been told to study a certain topic, but oftentimes they have no knowledge of that particular major.

“I talk to students pretty frequently whose parents have been talking to them about majors and tell them they would be good for a particular major, but that student didn’t know why,” Vrubel said. “I encouraged them to ask themselves why.”

Vrubel said one of the biggest mistakes a student makes when declaring a major is not properly educating him or herself about the degree.

“Not having enough information about themselves, and not having enough information about that particular major can hurt,” Vrubel said. “So having all that information before they decide is vital.”

4. Exposure is key

Robbins said some high schools offer exploratory career programs to give students the opportunity to expose themselves to a certain area of study during their four years.

“There are high schools that have a health cluster or a business cluster that give students some additional experience in preparing for their field,” Robbins said. ”Oftentimes, by the time they are a senior, their interests have changed, and as they come into college they may be ready to study a different area.”

Undergraduate classes may spark a student’s interest and help them decide what area of study fits them best, Robbins said.

“How much people change, and the whole aspect of being exposed to new things may be like, ‘Whoa, I never knew I could do this,’” Robbins said. “Personal change and exposure are huge.”

5. Do What Makes You Happy

Vrubel said income and happiness are two of the most frequent concerns students have when declaring a major.

“What I hear from students is that they want to be happy and stable,” Vrubel said. “They want to be able to get up and say, ‘I get to go to work today,’ not the dreaded, ‘Oh, the alarm is going off.”

Serina Olivares, social work freshman, said she wants to enjoy her career choice, instead of choosing something based on income.

“I don’t want a typical 9-to-5,” Olivares said. “You want to enjoy what you’re doing at the end of the day. Money isn’t always everything.”

Follow Denise Cervantes on Twitter at @cervantesdenise.