Choosing A Major
Choosing the right college major for you can be a difficult task.
The degree course list is endless and with over 3,000 colleges and universities in America, which major do you choose and where do you study?
It’s not as daunting as you may suppose. Our 9 tips will help you make the right decision.
1. Study what you love
A great place to start is the one or two subjects you love learning about and also consider what you spend your spare time doing.
Many students when they finish college don’t end up in a job that directly matches the course major they studied.
This is why it’s so vital to study what you enjoy, rather than a course which may have great job prospects but which you don't like and find difficult to learn.
2. Take your time
Don’t worry if you’re not sure what subject to take as your major, you don’t need to decide for definite until your sophomore year.
You can just enrol at the college of your choice and then decide. As college degrees are four years, use your freshman year to try out different subjects that fascinate you to see which you like best.
The only exceptions are medicine and engineering for which you do need to decide as early as possible.
3. Use online tools
You may find that the college itself has an online assessment tool (many do) to help you decide which course subject is best for you.
Places that offer these tools or quizzes include:
- Loyola University Chicago
- Goshen College
- Briar Cliff University
- Marquette University
- The Princeton Review
- My Majors
However, don't take them too seriously, especially if they don't give you the answers you were expecting. It's important to remember that the answers you get from these tools might not always mean the best major for you!
Do you want to study in a big sprawling city?
Do you fancy a campus village life instead or what about the wilderness of open country; will this expand your horizons?
It’s not only the college itself but where you’re going to be living that counts. We all have individual tastes and you need to go for the one you know you’ll be happiest at.
If you find that you can’t decide which college to apply to and you have the time and money, it really is worth a trip to the campus to see what it looks like in real life.
If not, then a great alternative is the college website. This is a must read for the amazing campus videos and student reviews.
5. Social life
The college itself may be big in size but what about its class sizes, the extra-curricular activities, the clubs and associations, the friends you’ll meet and spend most of your time with?
If you’re learning at a great science university but your ‘out of hours’ passion is performing arts, you need to know if the college has clubs that will cater for you.
Niche.com has a good list of the 2020 Colleges with the Best Social Life, which is worth flicking through to give you an idea of what students enjoyed about certain colleges.
Bachelor's Portal also has a nice list of the Top 10 Universities with the Best Campus Life in the USA.
The top 50 colleges may have world class reputations and international recognition but they can also be very expensive as well.
You need to look at both the cost of your course and your living expenses. Columbia University may have just the perfect course for you, but can you afford to live, eat and sleep in New York?
If cost is top of the agenda, consider the colleges in your own state. Many of the colleges offer much lower tuition fees for students from within their own state, compared to out of state students. This doesn’t mean you’ll need to live at home either!
Another option to consider is studying your first two years at an accredited community college and then transferring to a public university.
These colleges usually have smaller class sizes and lower costs and are widely accepted by the big universities.
All this means you can apply to your college of choice without having to commit to a major. However if you do commit to a major and then change your mind during your freshman year, you can always switch over. Lots of students achieve this very successfully.
8. Additional advice
It’s worth asking for advice in as many different places and from as many different people as you can, including your counsellors at school.
They’ve worked with many student in previous years, supporting them through the same choices you’re making.
Chat with family and friends - they may have been students previously at college, and can guide you on their experiences.
However, remember that it's your decision at the end of the day, so don't be pushed into taking a particular subject by someone else.
9. Employment rates and salaries
Employment rates will differ between professionals who enter the workforce with a bachelor's degree and those who go on to earn a master's or other advanced credential.
Studies have also found that employment rates varied between new graduates and bachelor's degree-holders with multiple years of professional experience.
A recent report states that around 80% of today's incoming college freshmen ultimately choose a major based on potential salary and benefits.
The study also found that the average median annual salary across bachelor's graduates in all majors was $33,000 for employees 21-25; additionally, the median earnings for high school graduates with no college education was $22,000.
For employees aged 25-59, the median annual salary was $60,000 for all bachelor's degree-holders and $36,000 for those with a high school diploma and no college.
While employment rates and salaries are useful to know for each college major, they shouldn't be the deciding factor.
As stated earlier, you need to make sure you enjoy the subject you are going to study, and are likely to do well enough in it to achieve a good result.
10. Do your research
In addition look for student review sites, social media groups and online videos that give you an idea of what student life is like at college. These are valuable resources, so use them as much as possible.
Websites worth looking at include:
The final decision is yours, so gather as much evidence as possible so you can make an informed choice and one where you’ll be excited and thrilled to start your college degree.
For more tips and advice on applying to college, please see: